Doctors say US student freed by North Korea has brain damage

Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old University of Virginia student, returned to his OH home in a coma earlier this week after spending 17 months in the North on charges of stealing a political propaganda poster. Doctors treating him in the USA said they found no evidence of botulism, but did find severe brain damage consistent with losing oxygen to the brain.

Doctors said on Thursday that there was no sign of botulism in Otto Warmbier's system.

They say he doesn't show any consistent response to stimulation, shows no sign of understanding language, responding to commands or awareness of his environment.

Otto Warmbier, 22, has a severe brain injury and is in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness", his OH doctors said on Thursday. The reclusive country accused the University of Virginia student of anti-state activities.

"While I welcome the news of Mr Warmbier's release, I am very concerned about his condition, and the authorities have to provide a clear explanation about what made him slip into a coma", Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), said in a statement issued in Geneva. Earlier Thursday, Fred Warmbier said he rejected the regime's explanation that his son fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill in March 2016 after his trial for trying to steal a political banner.

Dr. Brandon Foreman, associate director for Neurocritical Care Research, said there was no evidence that would suggest "active or chronic" botulism - a nerve-damaging bacteria.

Warmbier's father, Fred Warmbier, also talked about his son's medical condition after his release Tuesday from the totalitarian nation.

"He has not spoken", Kanter said at a news conference.

Doctors said they examined Warmbier's body and saw no evidence of fractures that might be evidence of severe beatings.

For one, while it keeps the hostages in harsh conditions and subjects them to psychological abuse, only one of the 18 or so Americans who have been detained in North Korea in the last decade - a Korean American missionary who deliberately crossed into North Korea in 2009 - has said he was beaten.

Blue-and-white ribbons in the school's colors were tied around trees and utility poles all the way along the city's main road in a show of support.

It was only a week ago that they were told he had been in a coma since shortly after he was incarcerated in March 2016 for stealing a political poster from a hotel. He was found guilty of committing a "hostile act" against the country and sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years of hard labor.

Warmbier was released from the rogue country on Tuesday.

The group landed in Beijing Capital International Airport, but when their tour guide called a colleague, who was with Warmbier still in North Korea, he said he couldn't travel because he felt ill. The state-run Korean Central News Agency on Thursday didn't comment on his medical condition.

He said he received "a very nice phone call" Wednesday from President Donald Trump, who said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson worked hard to bring Otto home. "It was kind", Fred Warmbier said. In fact, North Korean's are super friendly and accommodating, if you let them into your world. He hasn't spoken to the media since returning and USA officials have referred most questions to Warmbier's family.

One of former President Barack Obama's advisers says the Obama administration had "no higher priority" than securing the release of Americans detained overseas but North Korea's isolation "posed unique challenges".

  • Leroy Wright