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Mentally Disabled Deserve Chance to Work

May 18, 1997

Thank you for your detailed, evenhanded analysis of the Mental Disabilities Act ("Recognizing Rights of Mentally Disabled," May 2). I only wish the media at large were as compassionate.

Every year, 70,000 people in this country suffer head injuries resulting in mental infirmities. The usual cause is an automobile accident or random violence, although tumors, parasites and infectious diseases are also prevalent causes. You may be interested to note that people most severely affected by head trauma are highly intelligent, highly educated, high-functioning individuals to whom a loss of total mental control is devastating.

I personally hold advanced degrees from Stanford, UC Berkeley and UCLA. I had a substantial income and a solid career until I was involved in a freak automobile accident and developed persistent post-concussional syndrome. Fortunately, I was well insured and have not been devastated financially, as most head-injured are. However, the inability to find work has proved devastating to my sense of self-worth.

The irony is that the mentally infirm are the most likely people to benefit from the self-esteem attached to steady work. And yet they are the least likely to be assisted in their efforts.

SCOTT RUTHERFORD

Pacific Palisades

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