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There are many people in this world who have to live with a disability. Not long ago, they were exposed to relentless discrimination. However, in the world of today, it is understood that handicapped people though out of necessity constituting an underprivileged minority, have a right to live their dreams. Yet, there is also no denying that whether they will do it or not largely depends on the progress of medicine as well as numerous socio-political issues.
This paper does not concern itself with the questions of discrimination, focusing mainly on the topic of healthcare. Still, it is worth mentioning that the good life for handicapped people begins with the recognition by society that they should enjoy equal rights with the rest of the citizens. One of the basic, inalienable rights of everybody in America and the rest of the civilized world should be free access to healthcare. In the case of handicapped people, this problem is of particular importance since they need healthcare services as nobody else does.
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Unfortunately, healthcare is very costly. In India, for instance, “The large, upper extremity amputee population … has, historically, been poorly served, with most having no access to support or being provided with ineffective prostheses”. This problem should be addressed by leading politicians and charities. Yet, there is another aspect to the theme under discussion: can modern doctors guarantee good conditions of life for handicapped people?
This is a difficult question to answer since, on the one hand, modern medicine has made tremendous progress in comparison with the state that medicine was just 20-30 years ago in. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that further improvement is needed. Further medical innovations are most welcome within the context of taking care of patients with disabilities.
This has been said. It can be claimed with a reasonable level of certainty that the life of people with disabilities should not be equated with poor life. Any disability does not mean an inability. Time and time again, extraordinary people have proven that despite their disabilities, they could achieve tremendous success in fields as different and versatile as science, business, and sport. These people can serve as role models for others regardless of whether they have problems with their health or not. These examples inspire practically everybody, and it is not fortuitous that they are often cited in motivational videos.
Still, one is inclined to think that handicapped people who are high achievers are rather exceptions than a rule. These patients are characterized by incredible will and courage. However, not everybody in their position can boast of these qualities. So many patients with irretrievable disabilities suffer, which means that the situation needs to be tackled immediately. What can modern medicine offer to alleviate the suffering?
Much of the suffering comes from psychological issues rather than physical pain. Whether it is veterans who lost their arms and legs while serving their country or survivors of horrendous crimes, disabled patients need care and love from other people. This is the first prerequisite for a normal life. It is good if the patient has a strong and loving family, but if he does not, it lies within the duty of society to provide psychological comfort and care to such a person.
Having recognized that psychological care is no less important than medical one, the questions of how the damage from the inflicted wounds can be rectified arise. Unfortunately, in most cases, it cannot be corrected 100 %. Still, there are many options that modern medicine can offer to practically any disabled person.
Within this paper, it is really difficult to list all the new options available to disabled patients because there are many categories of disabled people. There are patients who lost their eyesight, there are those who were left without arms or legs, and there are people with mild disabilities, most of which can be eliminated with proper care. Some people suffer from heart diseases, others gasp for air, and some are already born with disabilities. It is important to bear in mind that overgeneralization is not a good rule within the context of medicine. Every patient’s problem should be addressed individually.
Let us take the patients who lost their arms or legs. Indeed, it is a terrible situation that inevitably involves a lot of trauma and suffering. And even after the operation, the patient is going to suffer because of the realization that he is disabled for life. This psychological perception of oneself as ‘disabled’ is wrong. People should be helped to get rid of it. But how can it be done? It is not enough to introduce political correctness and treat the handicapped as if he were totally normal. In most cases, it will not completely work.
I am not an opponent of political correctness. Neither do I think that care and love cannot work miracles – in fact, they can. Yet, the first step should be to help the person to start a normal life. It means he should do what he wants to do, what he would be doing as a normal, healthy human being. It can mean work, it can mean raising children – for different people, it will mean different things. Yet, how can a person without an arm work, for example?
Of course, in a society where there is no stigma attached to disability, it will be much easier for an individual to find his place in this world. Yet, the point is that medicine should also help such a person. Fortunately, at this stage, it can be done.
For example, when it comes to people without arms or legs, doctors can and, in most cases, should use prosthetic appliances – many of them are super-convenient, and they will definitely help the patient to feel better both physically and mentally. In the words of the researchers, “Although limb loss can cause severe disturbance in locomotion and functional abilities, prosthetic rehabilitation has the potential to restore function and increase the quality of life and is associated with a greater likelihood of returning to employment”. Today prosthetics is a new, developing field of medicine, and there is a hope that in the nearest future, prostheses will be practically as good as natural limbs. There is already some research on mind-controlled prosthetics (Jabr, 2011). And this is just the beginning.
To sum up, in this paper, a number of issues pertaining to the problems of disabled people have been addressed. There is no doubt that the topic discussed here is urgent and important. Further research is needed so as to raise the public awareness about this problem.
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