Re: The other dual diagnosis

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 50, No. 9, November 2008, Page 491 Letters

As a director of Community Living BC (CLBC), I am disappointed that the authors of “The other dual diagnosis: Developmental disability and mental health disorders” [BCMJ 2008;50:319-324] did not contact CLBC management to discuss, or provide notice of, their serious criticisms of the organization prior to publishing this article. CLBC embraces the vision of a community that recognizes and meets the needs of people with developmental disabilities, including their medical needs. CLBC is pleased to work with health care professionals to that end. 

As a parent and a lawyer, I find that the article is defensive. The authors admit that persons with developmental disabilities who are unable to communicate the source of physical pain, and who self-aggress or aggress toward others because of pain, are frequently misdiagnosed as having a psychiatric condition and receive psychotropic drugs. The authors suggest this is partly because misguided and inexperienced caregivers “ask” for drugs to treat behavioral difficulties. 

The suggestion that a highly trained medical professional accedes to the request of a caregiver to prescribe drugs rather than diagnosing and treating the patient in accordance with medical standards is a strange criticism of their professional colleagues. However, in my experience, the more likely scenario is the medical professional as­cribing aggression to “behaviors” and refusing to pursue the request of family members or caregivers to search for a physical cause. In my experience, some practitioners are only too willing to recommend and even insist upon prescribing psycho­tropic drugs or simply tranquilizing developmentally disabled patients who are in distress. I have met caregivers who frequently lament this reality. 

The authors are correct in concluding that there are too few clinicians with training and expertise in the area of developmental disabilities. Changing the way CLBC administers services will not affect this gap—it is up to the medical profession to turn its collective attention to meeting the health care needs of this population. 

—Joan L. Rush, LLB

Joan L. Rush, LLB,. Re: The other dual diagnosis. BCMJ, Vol. 50, No. 9, November, 2008, Page(s) 491 - Letters.

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