Wednesday, January 18, 2012
The Privileged Patient
I don't like the idea of framing treatment in terms of who is more 'deserving' of care. I don't think you can put a rating scale on suffering or prioritize trauma. Nevertheless, when it comes to the spectrum and amount of services that are needed my forensic patients are right up there. They may not be very literate, they've got poor social supports as well as mental health and addiction problems. Oh, and chronic medical problems that go untreated because they have no insurance. They're facing an uphill battle just to reach a "normal" place in society. For my patients, success means having a place to live, a job, people who care about them, maybe even a car and a girlfriend. That's a lot to have when you're starting at zero. Yet when it comes to apportioning services and access to treatment these are the first folks to get cut.
Some inpatient units do have patients of privilege---people who aren't starting at zero---and these patients really do seem rich (figuratively and literally) in comparison. But forensic patients are increasingly part of our mental health care system. When we talk about making the system better they have to be part of that discussion.