Known as the quality-of-life specialty, physical medicine and rehabilitation aims to improve movement and reduce psychological, emotional, family, and vocational stresses that often accompany temporary or permanent loss of motor function. Congenital and acquired conditions—from spina bifida to traumatic injury to Parkinson’s disease—fall within physiatrists’ purview. Contributors to the May issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics tackle the serious ethical questions physiatrists confront as they offer patients encouragement tempered by realistic expectations, arrange safe discharge and follow-up, manage long-term pain, and fight for access to the best rehab care for all who need it.
Some disability advocates take issue with the “normalization” goals of the medical model of rehabilitation, but expressions of that position can be dismissive of rehabilitationists’ efforts to remediate oppressive functional deficits.
AMA J Ethics. 2015;17(6):562-567. doi: