Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is an Institution the Best Way?

The Winnipeg Free Press has an article about a man with Autism being confined to his room for 15 days with no free access to a toilet or washroom.  The man, a 20 year old at a privately operated institution, had a double lock on his door and could only use the toilet when the staff noticed that he needed it.  When they did not notice, he would use a corner of the room. 

The outrage of the man's mother is understandable, as is the outrage of everyone that has been questioned in regards to the incident.  But Dr. Andre Blanchet, the Massachusetts-based physician tapped for an interview noted that the allegations suggest deeper issues.  And I am inclined to agree.  This sort of problem is inherent with institutions.  Those who are not emotionally invested in the care of individuals can become careless.  There are plenty of examples of abuse at general institutions, regardless of Government or private ownership.  So is the idea of institutionalizing patients not safe?

Absolutely not.  Those signs of abuse are generally the exception rather than the rule, even for disabled individuals.  But it does bring up a potential problem, and one that current care-givers need to keep in mind as they contemplate institutions.  Private care can be just as bad, or even worse as medical assistance much needed is not given even by the most loving family member. 

This case in Nova Scotia is a good wake-up call for all institutions that deal with the disabled:  make sure all your patients are getting the care to which they are entitled.  My hope is that others will learn quickly from this example, and make sure this outrage will never happen again.

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