Chronic Pain Issues

January 4, 2018

As one who knows people who deal with “chronic pain,” I watched the documentary Dr. Feelgood with really conflicting emotions. It’s about Dr. Hurwitz, who was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison (later reduced significantly) for overprescribing painkillers. 

The trouble is that there are really and truly people out there who deal with chronic pain. Some pain is tolerable – I know as one who has arthritis. I have several family members with fibromyalgia and other painful conditions. Generally speaking, people learn to live with it with over the counter pain killers, exercise, meditation, yoga, etc. But, some pain goes way above and beyond “annoying” and “uncomfortable” to downright “unlivable.” I have a personal friend who lives with a chronic pain condition, and though she is only in her 30s, she is completely disabled from it and unable to work. She is in and out of the emergency room because she literally cannot stand up. I’ve seen her in tears more than once. It’s so difficult to watch someone suffer like that. But, where do you draw the line when it comes to opioid use? 

I believe that Dr. Hurwitz approached opioid prescriptions for his patients with a goal of helping them. Unfortunately, in his efforts to help patients, he sometimes went overboard. I think he had a helping heart, and tried to ignore symptoms of addiction, and the obvious fact that some patients were taking the prescribed drugs and reselling them illegally outside the clinic doors. 

It’s odd that Dr. Hurwitz was originally convicted of trafficking, because he didn’t profit in any way from the prescriptions. He wasn’t receiving kickbacks or special favors. That’s likely why, in the end, many of the convictions were overturned and his sentence was so reduced. 

Now, the federal government suggests that patients use opioids for only 3-7 days. So, they can be used directly following an injury or some sort of surgery. But, what happens to patients who suffer from chronic pain, of the sort where you literally cannot function? It’s a huge problem and it’s heartbreaking watching some of the interviews from people who are truly suffering. It’s equally heartbreaking to watch interviews of surving family members of patients who overdosed. 

The documentary is thought-provoking, to say the least. I think it’s worth watching, particularly because there aren’t any obvious conclusions. It’s certainly something to think about. 

Romans 8:18 (NRSV): I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

Serve all with love.

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