The recent horrifying state intervention in the medical care of a brain dead pregnant woman in Texas has gotten me thinking across boundaries.
The young woman was found unconscious in her home and rushed to a hospital where she was diagnosed as brain dead. But the wishes of her husband and her parents to take her off life support were denied by hospital administrators, who said state law would not allow them to take the woman off life support because she was 14 weeks pregnant.
In other words this young woman, against her probable wishes and the wishes of her family, brain dead and unable to defend herself, was to be an incubator for the uncertain viability of the fetus in her. Texas state law trumped this woman’s rights and the rights of her family, setting itself up as the arbiter of her treatment, as well as the time of her death. That’s the ultimate in government intervention.
I don’t wish to reargue the abortion wars, but I do want to explore the similarities between the hospital’s questionable decision and the heavy handed interference by state and federal authorities into the relationship between physicians and pain patients.
As I see it this War on Pain Patients is imbedded in the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. Both wars have identified enemies who are legitimate targets of government repression: terrorists, drug cartels, dealers, and illegal drug users.
Both wars also depend on the government’s constant hyping of fear through a compliant media. The War on Drugs brings us fear of crime, gangs, and guns; and the War on Terror makes us fear suicide bombers, planes, radical Muslims, color coded levels, mosques built in the wrong places, and dark skinned foreigners. Danger, danger, danger.
Another hallmark of both wars is the flood of federal money into states, cities and rural areas. Along with this massive influx of money for law enforcement and military preparedness comes the militarization of our police departments. Many rural police departments have unwanted military equipment bestowed upon them because, as those police chiefs have learned to say, you never know what might happen: Fear of the unknown.
A consequence of both wars is the corruption of our civil rights. In the War on Drugs this can be seen in the deplorable stop and frisk police tactics that sweep up young men of color that leads to the burgeoning incarceration industry, the ultimate in social control.
We have also discovered our government scopes up information on all of its citizens; phone calls, emails and internet searches — and stores this information for future use. Why? To track down possible terrorists. Fear.
Enter the War on Pain Patients. Opioid medicines and those of us who rely on them for some semblances of relief and of life are now another group to be controlled and feared.
It is because of us that pharmaceutical companies have produced and marketed these lifesaving medicines. But as these medicines have been implicated in diversion, misuse, addiction and death, they and we are the new enemy on the block.
Does it matter that there are far more dangerous products available: alcohol, guns and tobacco products that have no medical value but are still allowed on the market to kill far more people than opioids?
I am treated like a potential criminal every time I need a refill of my opioid medication, treated as someone to be feared. Feared by my physician, pharmacist and drug manufacturer, as well as the public at large.
I have to see my doctor every month to get my subscription. I have to fill out extra paperwork at the pharmacy that no other patient has to fill out. And often, when I reveal to someone that I take an opioid, I am met with immediate suspicion and thought of as an addict. Fear.
Governments use fear to isolate and control groups of people seen as a challenge to their authority. People with pain are often in a constant state of agitation as a result of policies forced on us by government, specifically the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.
People with pain need to do the opposite of what is intended for us. Instead of withdrawing into an anxious silence, we need to join with each other in online groups and other organizations to push back against an overreaching government that’s pressing for more control. It doesn’t just have to be pain groups. It can be any social or political group that interests you.
This has the effect of empowering us, involving us again in our communities and retaking the democratic power promised us in our constitution. The effect of this is synergistic. Wherever we become involved, we can push the cause of decent medical care to the foreground.
The people we work with will also begin to know us. And stop fearing us.
Mark Maginn lives in Chicago where he is a poet, writer and social justice activist. Mark suffers from chronic pain and was a longtime volunteer with the American Pain Foundation. His blog “Left Eye Blind” can be found here.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.