Posted by Lili Ibara
“Well, and just exactly who put HIM in charge of ME?” a client asks from her hospital bed, shifting her Johnny for better coverage and readjusting her stylish reading glasses. I’ve just told her that the hospital psychiatrist, the one she’s known for all of five hours, has decided she isn’t competent to make her own decisions. “You mean that arrogant man with the terrible puffy hair? But he doesn’t even know the first thing about me!” She sounds almost more baffled that this could have happened to her than angry that it has.
Part of me, the part that feels twitchy at the very thought of some psychiatrist deciding what I may and may not do, wants to help her into her tailored jacket so we can make a run for it. I’m sure we could make it to the elevators without anyone noticing and after that I could just drop her off at home. And then? Then, I know from past experience, some crisis would occur, a pot would be left untended, a crucial medication would not be taken and we’d end up right back here. This client whom I like and admire, this sophisticated confident woman who can still charm an overworked doctor into seeing her hours late for an appointment, has a form of dementia that is devastating her memory and ability to reason. Despite his arguable arrogance and unarguably bad hair, the hospital psychiatrist is right. She can’t make decisions right now. But what gives us the right to decide that?