Brain Injuries Impair Decision-Making Skills

After a head injury, patients face numerous physical and emotional challenges. During and even after hospitalization, there are many medical decisions that need to be made as part of treatment. But the very act of making decisions is a problem, according to research published in the April 11, 2012, issue of the medical journal Neurology.

According to an article in ScienceDaily, the severity of the injury directly corresponds to the amount of decision-making impairment. One month after the initial injury, patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) showed little residual impairment, while those with more severe TBI had significant impairment. This impairment can affect patients’ health in ways that go beyond simple decision making.

“Immediately following injury and during the rehabilitation and recovery period, patients and their families must make ongoing and often complex medical decisions, including treatment of brain trauma and orthopedic injuries, choice of rehabilitation programming and treatment of neuropsychiatric problems,” said Daniel C. Marson, J.D., Ph.D., professor of Neurology, director of the UAB Division of Neuropsychology and senior author of the study.

This study suggests that doctors and caregivers need to be more aware of what patients are, and are not, capable of. Patients may not be able to give consent to medical procedures for months after the initial injury. It could be that caregivers need to take a more active role in medical decision making for a longer period of time than previously thought.

Unfortunately, there is no test to help us judge when a patient is capable of making decisions. Caregivers will need to rely on physicians and other experts to help them make proper decisions for their injured loved ones. This study points out another reason why TBI attorneys are valuable members of a treatment team for people with brain injury–attorneys have experience dealing with the long-term needs of patients, needs that include help for caregivers who may need to take control over their loved one’s lives for months or years after the patient leaves the hospital.

To read the full article in ScienceDaily, click here: Head Injuries Often Impair

To learn more about how an attorney can help in TBI cases, visit our dedicated TBI webpage:

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