Our ability to restore an individual following a catastrophic injury is limited - but maybe not the way most people think. As technology improves and the potential for recovery is enhanced we may soon have to rethink who is entitled to the systems we can create.
After a catastrophic injury or after experiencing a neurological condition, recovery is often limited more by the resources, attitudes, beliefs, structures and processes of our health services than it is by any fundamental lack of knowledge on how to implement rehabilitation. There are a number of barriers in the system of healthcare delivery - and a fundamental one is lack of finance.
Many of us in the UK grew up believing that the NHS, providing care free at the point of need, would always be there for us. Unfortunately when it comes to long term care for chronic condtions this can't really be the case. As we see technologies emerging that can improve and restore human function and even life expectancy it is going to be interesting to see how society decides who will receive these benefits.
In our work we see individuals every week who have been in an accident and they may as a consequence have access to compensation or insurance payments which can unlock the door to particular technologies. At present those individuals are a minority of those in need. Many more who could enhance their lives with the latest technology will not be able to access it due to lack of finance.
Recently we were involved in providing an FES Cycling system to an individual via the Surprise Suprise TV programme. We didn't choose the person to be the beneficiary - this was arranged by the TV company on the basis that the individuals involved had a strong need and a particularly dramatic story. Whilst agreeing with the need and supporting this story, I was very aware of the many others in the UK equally deserving who are not going to be so fortunate.
Social psychologist Bertolt Meyer presented his thoughts at "Futurefest" on the social impact of technology in the field of prosthetic and bionics. As a life long user of a prosthetic hand he has been able to see how technology trends have gradually transformed his replacement from something dysfunctional and embarrasing to something that is not only functional but "cool."
Recognising the changes taking place and the opportunities that technology is creating he asks.
- who is entitled to the technology we can now create as it progresses to the point that it can even extend human function and life?
- are we reaching the point that humans may elect to replace an existing limb or organ system with a bionic one?
- can disability be turned into an unfair advantage - an era of "techno-doping"
Im sure that many disabled people would scoff at the notion of their disability being turned into an advantage. Most, for the forseeable future will not enjoy the experience. Trends in technology will dissolve one barrier to progress but will not by themselves provide a solution for the majority. - See more at: http://derekjones.typepad.com/blog/2013/10/can-disability-ever-be-an-advantage.html#sthash.9wB5jPlu.dpuf