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Someone's lying in a hospital, badly hurt, outright unconscious, in a Convenient Coma or otherwise incapable of talking, hooked up to a heart rate monitor. The bad cop is in need of information, so they walk up and speak unpleasantness. Cue the ECG spiking to indicate that it's working. The positive variant is also seen, with a person apparently unconscious suddenly reacting to someone talking. Again, the ECG will act as the mood ring. Variations include squeezing the hand and so on.

Not to be confused with the Locked-in Syndrome, which might or might not be able to communicate, and frequently results in a Disability Superpower.

Examples of Comatose Canary include:


  • There's a Terry's Chocolate Orange commercial where a patient in a hospital has died, and is covered by a sheet. For some reason, he's still hooked up to an EKG. A nurse tries to steal his chocolate orange, and Whacks it, right there. The patient kicks and his EKG starts beeping again (wow, he came back from the dead because someone was trying to pinch his favorite candy). Cue the Slogan, "When you Whack a Terry's Chocolate Orange, good things happen.

Anime and Manga

  • A talking variation occurs in the Yakusamashi filler arc of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni when, after the Great Hinamizawa Disaster, Mr. Ooishi monologues in front of a catatonic Satoko about all the things he wanted to interrogate her about. After a while, he mentions Rika's murder, and it's at this point that Satoko's face starts. Ooishi later figures out too late that it was this that she had information about, and not the Hinamizawa Disaster. It's also worth noting that the part of the arc referred to was a hasty adaptation of the ending of another arc, although the comatose character was different.
  • In Ayashi no Ceres, Aya visits her coma-ridden mother in the hospital with Tooya. Aya introduces Tooya to her mother, and Tooya then promises to always take care of Aya... then Aya's mother squeezes their hands.


  • In Spice World, three of the Spice Girls visit an unconscious boy in the hospital. Victoria jokingly suggests that Geri should take her top off, then realizes that it wouldn't do him much good as his eyes are closed. He wakes up immediately.


  • One Bernard Werber short story has a tree's equivalent used to solve a crime.

Live Action TV

  • Used in a recent episode of Heroes when Matt Parkman is talking to Molly Walker just before he confronts his dad. In this case, though, it's probably related to Matt's mental powers.
  • Showed up in CSI
    • Subverted in CSI New York: Mac seemed to be able to communicate with a woman who was put in a coma through blinks, but it was quickly revealed that they were just random spasms (or something of that nature).
  • Tweaked in Psych. Shawn, posing as a doctor, admonishes the interns to speak positively around the coma patient, lest they frighten him into remaining comatose. This is a dodge to get them to speak layman to Shawn about the patient's condition.
  • A variation was used in Supernatural at the beginning of season 2. Dean was in a coma after a car accident, but he could hear what was being said to him because he was having an out-of-body experience and "haunting" his hospital room. Also used in an episode where the spirit of a comatose girl whose father read her fairy tales was causing people to reenact those fairy tales.
  • On an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, based loosely on the Terry Schiavo case, Goran and Eames set up a phony situation with "yes" and "no" cards, making it appear as though the persistent vegetative person can look at a card, and her visual angle tracked to determine her responses to questions. The set up is to get the criminal who killed her doctor to believe that she can tell everything to the detectives so he will confess.
  • In the Season One finale of 30 Rock Jack is hooked up to an EKG following a mid-coital cardiac episode with his fiancee, whom he barely knows and who seems to have quite a few secrets of her own. When Jack's shrewd and shrewish mother questions him in the hospital, he tries to evade her, but she uses his heart monitor as a lie-detector to figure out what's really going on.
  • In an early third season episode of Babylon 5, Lennier is injured saving Mollari from an explosion and spends the rest of the episode unconscious in MedLab. Mollari visits Lennier and tells a joke. At the end of the episode, Dr Franklin starts telling the same joke. Lennier wakes up, tells the punchline, and mentions that he'd heard that one before.

Western Animation

  • There's the Clip Show episode of The Simpsons where Homer is put in hospital by Bart's beer bomb. When Bart confesses, Homer starts to come around, and the ECG actually shows Homer's heart line as Bart outlines.