* * Anonymous Doc

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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."


She nods her head.

"Was that a nod, or an involuntary reaction?"

"She can hear you."

"Then why can't she sign the form?"


  1. Oh god. This is terrifying for so many reasons.

    This blog is wonderful.

  2. This had me laughing out loud. And yet, just like Ruth, it's terrifying. Are people that dumb?

  3. This one has to be a joke right? I've worked with some techs, and its not like their that slow.

    Great blog by the way!

  4. yikes, i don't know about you but empathy and common sense should be medical field requirements.

  5. There are a number of conditions that cause certain people to assume others are somehow mentally incapacitated. One of these conditions is being foreign - foreigners everywhere are treated as stupid, talking slow helps when you don't understand the language, but if you just happen to have an accent that should not automatically diminish your perceived intellect...yet it does.

    There is a special word in Japanese - Gaijin - which (to a japanese person) means something like "dumb stranger".

    On a side note - i always wondered why some people think that increasing the volume of speech somehow improves the understanding of the listener.

  6. Thank you for posting this, and thank you for noticing.

    I have a physical disability, and medical personnel have been treating me as if I were mentally challenged all my life: not to mention store clerks, agency workers and the occasional teacher.

    Yes, to answer an earlier commenter, some people really are that stupid. Please do intervene if someone is treated this way by your coworkers!