The Patient Is a Person

With all the headlines being made by Health Care Reform and the subsequent controversies surrounding it, many of the weak points of American Health Care have been exposed. One issue that has received little, if any, scrutiny is the sadly anemic condition of not just the treatment itself, but the philosophy of mental health treatment in America. To us there seems to be a true loss of awareness: The awareness that those seeking treatment for mental disorders or illness are human beings in need of empathetic and therapeutic care, not just mouths in which to stuff psychoactive drugs.
By way of example, Dr. Ricker was recently visited by a 24 year old young man who had just spent two weeks as a psychiatric inpatient in a very well known University Teaching Hospital in Los Angeles. He had been discharged the previous day.
Upon entering the office, the patient was stiff, clumsy, and absent of any apparent emotion or other emotive affect. His speech was flat and monotone. There were the usual greetings.
Then, immediately, the patient began reciting a pharmaceutical laundry list of the medications he’d been given at the Hospital, including very large amounts of two major anti-psychotic drugs, an unnamed anti-depressant and a very large amount of a drug called Neurontin.
“Have you been taking these long?”
“Two days”, he said. Considering the mammoth dosages of drugs coursing through his veins, he was lucky to be walking or even speaking at all (Did he drive to this appointment all jacked up on pills?)
“You had a Doctor at the Hospital?”
“Yeah”, he said.
“Did you two spend time together, trying to understand what needed to be set right inside you?”
“I never met him”, was the response.
“Did you have a therapist?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Did you two spend time together, trying to understand what needed to be set right inside you?”
“I met her once. She was nice.”
“How did you get these medicines?”
“I went to a conference,” he said.
“They decided there?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did anyone talk to you about these medications? What they do, possible problems, side effects, stuff like that?”
“No. A nurse just brought them to me and asked me to take them. I slept for a whole day.”
After only a few minutes into the scheduled hour-long session, he wanted to leave.

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