Andrew Devine, now 30, was brain-damaged in the crush at the Sheffield Wednesday football stadium in which 95 fans died in 1989. He was diagnosed at the time as being in a PVS.
After a few months in hospital he was taken home to their family house in Allerton, near Liverpool, and has been cared for by his parents, Stanley and Margaret, there ever since.
They have consistently refused to allow the termination of the artifical feeding that has kept their son alive in the hope that one day he would recover some of his faculties.
The news is likely to reignite the row about the quality of PVS diagnoses and the moral dilemma over whether a patient believed to be in such a state should be allowed to die, and at what stage.
Mr Devine's condition was believed to be similar to that of Tony Bland, another victim of the stadium tragedy who was allowed to die after a decision made by the House of Lords in 1993. It was a landmark decision for "right to die" cases. After the ruling, the Devines' solicitor, Rex Makin, said: "Mr and Mrs Devine sympathise with the Blands but their attitude is not the same. They hope that one day [Andrew] may recover some of his faculties." That day seemed to have arrived yesterday.
Mr Makin confirmed reports that Andrew had become aware of his surroundings and was once again communicating with members of his family.
Mr Makin would not comment further than saying that the Devines and his son Robin Makin, who has taken on the case for the family and was a former school colleague of Andrew, were both delighted by the news.
In a statement released last night, Robin Makin said: "Andrew does have some re- cognised cognition and he is aware of what's going on around him. All the hard work which has gone into looking after him has had some very real benefit. He communicates by pressing a touch-sensitive switch - one for 'yes' and two for 'no'." He has benefited from "the devoted love and care of his parents combined with a proper care regime and physiotherapy," Mr Makin added.
Andrew's present condition was "chalk and cheese" compared with his previous state. "He hasn't been languishing in a bed somewhere. He's had constant stimulation."
Mr and Mrs Devine could not be contacted at their home last night.