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Different jurisdictions use the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) for different purposes, and this article reviews a specific jurisdictional definition in the Province of Ontario of catastrophic impairment that incorporates the AMA Guides. In Ontario, a whole person impairment (WPI) exceeding 54% or a mental or behavioral impairment of Class 4 or 5 qualifies the individual for catastrophic benefits, and individuals who do not meet the test receive a lesser benefit. By inference, this establishes a parity threshold among dissimilar injuries and dissimilar outcome assessment scales for benefits. In Ontario, the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) identifies patients who have a high probability of death or of severely disabled survival. The GCS recognizes gradations of vegetative state and disability, but translating the gradations for rating individual impairment on ordinal scales into a method of assessing percentage impairments cannot be done reliably, as explained in the AMA Guides, Fifth Edition. The AMA Guides also notes that mental and behavioral impairment in Class 4 (marked impairment) or 5 (extreme impairment) indicates “catastrophic impairment” by significantly impeding useful functioning (Class 4) or significantly impeding useful functioning and implying complete dependency on another person for care (Class 5). Translating the AMA Guides guidelines into ordinal scales cannot be done reliably.

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