Or, “So you’re in pain, eh? You’ll manage!”
This is not about me (but it is uncharacteristically long).
A close relative (let’s call her ‘my mother’) had surgery about a month ago to replace old implants that she received after a prior mastectomy, and to perform some kind of reconstruction of surrounding tissues that had collapsed. Since then, she has experienced daily and constant severe pain, particularly on one side. The surgeon, unable to find an infection or anything unusual, referred her to a pain management specialist.
“Great,” I foolishly thought—from what I’d heard of pain clinics, they were strictly regulated and monitored their patients carefully, but in turn were allowed to prescribe stronger (or greater amounts of) pain medication than a “regular” doctor might feel comfortable with. And the regulation part certainly panned out: my mother was drug-screened (and handed a consent form afterward, oops we forgot to have you sign this) and required to sign pages and pages of legal forms consenting, among other things, to not seek treatment elsewhere while they were treating her.
After all the hoop-jumping, the doctor—who was arrogant and aloof, rushed through the exam, and directed my mother to ask questions of his nurse rather than answering them himself—prescribed her little more than JACK SHIT: some anesthetic patches and an anticonvulsant drug, neither of which did anything for the pain, although the latter did render her unconscious for more than 20 hours and left her with a terrible hangover.
When called and informed that the medication wasn’t helping, the snotty gatekeeper advised my mother to bring in the remainder of her unused prescription when she comes in for her next visit in eleven days. “Sorry,” they told her, “you’re not an established patient, so we don’t know that you won’t try to sell your pain meds. Blame it on the bad apples who ruin it for everyone else.”
So, mother—a woman in her mid-sixties with no history of prescription drug abuse, who drinks a single beer once in a blue moon, and who’s never touched an illegal drug, even pot, in her entire life—is sitting at home in tears, suffering and unable to seek alternate treatment from someone who actually gives a shit. Her son, meanwhile, is fighting an overpowering urge to pay a visit to the pain “specialist” and wring his neck—or better still, shatter his kneecaps with a crowbar and tell him to “walk it off.”
And I’m not buying the “bad apples” bullshit; if your default assumption is that your patients are drug-seeking criminals who somehow must prove otherwise, there is something seriously wrong with your practice (and whatever soiled tatters remain of your empathy). Forcing legitimate patients to suffer because of the possibility someone might misuse drugs? Does that not, in fact, create more overall harm than the abuse itself, where and when it does occur?
My mother is the farthest thing from a “drug seeker” these people will likely ever see—she hates taking painkillers, and most of her prescriptions expire in her medicine cabinet long before they are consumed. If she’s asking for pain meds, it’s because she really, really needs them.
And I am one pissed-off Turnip.