On Civil Servants: a True Story

As Sark debates whether or not to appoint a full time civil servant, we are reminded of the following (true) story.

One interesting case was a 44-year-old French man, whose brain had been reduced to little more than a thin sheet of actual brain tissue, due to the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in his head. In July 2007, Fox News quoted Dr. Lionel Feuillet of Hôpital de la Timone in Marseille as saying: “The images were most unusual … the brain was virtually absent.” (can you guess his profession already?) “It is hard for me [to say] exactly the percentage of reduction of the brain, since we did not use software to measure its volume. But visually, it is more than a 50% to 75% reduction,” says Lionel Feuillet, a neurologist at the Mediterranean University in Marseille, France.

Intelligence tests showed the man had an IQ of 75, below the average score of 100. This would be considered “borderline intellectual functioning” – which is just next to the level of being officially considered mentally challenged.

Remarkably, the man was a married father of two children, and worked as a civil servant, leading an at least superficially normal life.

“What I find amazing to this day is how the brain can deal with something which you think should not be compatible with life,” commented Dr. Max Muenke, a paediatric brain defect specialist at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Ever caught yourself swearing under your muted breath, when faced with a civil servant, how someone so borderline intellectual functioning could be compatible with human life? Now you have your answer. It doesn’t take half a brain to be a civil servant. Indeed, one quarter will do.

New Scientist, Many with tiny brain shocks doctors, 20 July 2007
Wikipedia on Hydrocephalus

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