WARNING: This post contains dystopian imagery which may be frightening to some readers.
DME EDITORIAL – The following warning regarding motorized wheelchairs must be prefaced by acknowledging the significant population of patients, including those with amputations, victims of stroke, sufferers of destructive joint disease, and many others, whose lives have been bettered by the existence of the Power Chair. For their benefit, may the technology of motorized mobility continue to thrive.
For those without a clearly defined disability, however, there is a sinister side to the Power Chair, seducing patients into a state of helplessness even more profound than the difficulty that drove them to seek the device in the first place. Preying on the weak among us, these motorized chairs promise everlasting mobility, speed, and sometimes even cup-holders, but in the end, victims are left immobile, deconditioned on a faux leather seat of deception. Once you sit down in a Power Chair, the drive to rise again is hobbled by convenience.
Unaware of the Power Chair’s wiles, patients relentlessly cajole their doctors into medical device authorization. They are goaded on by medical equipment companies who stand to profit from additional Power Chair orders. The patient’s enthusiasm is easy to understand. Anyone can appreciate the appeal of a device which can reach land speeds up to 12 mph and turn 360 degrees inside of a port-o-potty. For those of us who will never run a five minute mile, the Power Chair has placed such velocity within our grasp. Undeniably, the thought of making the 3/4 mile trek to the Electronics Department at the back of Super Wal-Mart unfettered by the constraints of natural ambulation is quite appealing. For many patients, the allure is too much to resist.
Patients have a barrage of arguments supporting their requests for a Power Chair:
- “The medical supply company says that I need one.”
- “Ronald Skoughter’s doctor got him a power chair, and Ronald doesn’t even have high blood pressure like I do!”
- “I get tired.”
- “Don’t worry! Medicare/Insurance will pay for it.”
- “I’m too heavy to be walking around all the time. It hurts my feet.”
- “I like having the handlebar basket to put my things in.”
- “They have Power Chair races I want to compete in.” (Actually, it’s unclear whether this has ever been used as a rationale for an unnecessary Power Chair, but unbeknownst to many physicians, there are indeed motorized wheelchair competitions.)
Despite a bevy of well-rehearsed justifications, patients lament that their requests often seem to fall on apathetic ears. They see their doctor as a pompous tightwad for refusing to prescribe such a wonderful contraption except in the most dire of circumstances. Little do they understand that the physician is battling on the front lines against a dark force that would quietly crush our civilization if it were allowed full license to infiltrate society.
Exaggeration, you say? Picture with me, if you will, a barren American wasteland sometime in the not-so-distant future. It is a desolate landscape where overspending in healthcare has bankrupted our economy – a place where human-sized squirrels (created by indiscretions in research funding) have overrun our cities. These squirrels order CT scans for acid reflux, they enslave our children through Facebook, they test cardiac enzymes on everyone, and (worst of all) the mutant rodents use smooth jazz to break our will to resist them.
In one final campaign to reclaim the world we’ve lost, an entire American populace rallies its Power Chairs against the innumerable squirrelly legion. We whirr our chairs into formation only to realize that the nefarious beasts have chewed through every battery and rubber power cord in our once mighty nation. (If you have ever had squirrels in your attic, you know the rodents’ vile potential.) We struggle to conquer the enemy on foot without electricity, but, after 40 years of Power-Chair-driven freedom, our legs are too weak for combat. (A similar example of the decay induced by powered mobility was shown in Disney’s WALL-E.) The squirrels are victorious, our civilization crumbles, and we, in shame, lie down beside an abandoned KFC restaurant and weep for the loss of the world we once knew.
While Power Chairs can be an appropriate medical intervention with the potential to restore independence and quality of life, there are many times when a power chair only worsens deconditioning. Call them petty or cold, but when doctors refuse to write a prescription for a power chair, most are not trying to be cruel or vindictive. No. They simply hold on to the hope that through hard work, patients may recover their own high-level mobility. These principled medical providers are crusaders, valiantly fighting for the preservation of our cherished livelihood and forestalling the collapse of civilization.
DISCLAIMER: Editorials written by contributors to the Daily Medical Examiner are the views of individual writers. They are written to provoke thought and discussion and do not reflect the stance of any institution. They should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Please seek the counsel of a personal, qualified medical professional for health-related concerns. If you have come to our site seeking actual medical information, we can only offer our condolences and utter disbelief.