Physical handicap does not mean mental handicap. You'd think that of all places, people who work in a hospital would realize this. But they don't. One of my patients this week is recovering from an accident that has unfortunately left her paralyzed from the neck down. She's entirely competent mentally, she just can't move her arms and legs.
And she's treated like she's blind, deaf, and dumb.
I took her for a scan, and the tech needed to see her consent form. I told him I'd marked the signature line with an x and written that she was paralyzed. He looks at it, shakes his head. "This won't work. She needs to sign it."
"She can't sign it."
He looks at the patient. Screams, slowly, "DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?"
She looks at him. "Yes. I consent to the test."
The tech looks back at me. "Does she understand what she's saying?"
"Yes. Her brain is fine."
"Well, I can't do this without a signature."
"She can't sign the form."
"Then put the pen in her hand and move it yourself."
"We need a signature."
He yells at the patient again: "WE NEED A SIGNATURE. DO YOU KNOW YOUR NAME?"
"She's not deaf."
"Well, she's not moving."
"That's right. She's paralyzed."
"DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE PARALYZED?"
She nods her head.
"Was that a nod, or an involuntary reaction?"
"She can hear you."
"Then why can't she sign the form?"