My patients’ quality of life is not worth risking my practice or my license over

Doctors restricted my husband’s pain medication. He committed suicide.

https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2018/07/24/tennessees-opioid-regulations-precipitated-my-husbands-death/797988002/

There have recently been a few minor stories about the closing of Comprehensive Pain Specialists clinics across the region due to financial issues and a federal criminal investigation. Some have even mentioned that an estimated 45,000 pain patients are now without a pain management doctor. 

If this were 45,000 cancer patients not receiving treatment in the weeks to come, it would be headline news. People would be up in arms over that denial of care. 

If you or somebody you love have not been directly impacted by long-term chronic pain, then you are very fortunate. Keep in mind that we are all just one car accident away from that condition. 

A car accident in the early 1980s is the reason my husband, Jay, developed chronic pain. The backlash against opiate addiction and the ill-conceived U.S. Centers for Disease Control response to that is what caused him to end his life. 

More: The race against pain: As clinics close, patients need new doctors before pills run out

Jay was young and strong enough not immediately to need pain medications to manage his back injury. He dealt with his pain until his condition degenerated, and he was forced to have three back surgeries in 2007 and 2008. It was at this point that he was started on low dosages of pain medications.  As time went on, he developed some tolerance to these medications. 

He worked with a doctor to make sure that he was on the lowest possible dosage that would allow him to maintain some quality of life. He also allowed them to do any other procedure they thought necessary beyond just prescribing medications. This included implanting a device in his side that delivered a constant dosage of medication. 

The back injury did not allow him to work, and it severely limited him in many ways.  A good day was as simple as being able to take our dogs for a walk or to go to the grocery store with me.  A bad day would leave my strong, fiercely-independent husband in so much pain he would sit in his chair and sob.

We were introduced to the CDC guidelines after Tennessee adopted their version of these in early 2017. 

These were guidelines only, not laws (Tennessee passed an opioid law in 2018), that outlined that patients on long term ongoing care with opioid medications must be seen by a pain care provider. The CDC guidelines go further by recommending a lower dosage a pain care specialist can prescribe. 

My introduction to these guidelines came when Comprehensive Pain Specialists told my husband they were cutting his medications by 75 percent. The reason that we were given was that eventually the guidelines might become law. The last thing the doctor said to my husband was “My patients’ quality of life is not worth risking my practice or my license over.”    

It did not matter to them that my husband was not abusing his medication or that he had been their patient for over five years. It did not matter how drastically they were reducing his quality of life. 

Rather than face the unbearable pain that losing his medication would cause him, my husband chose to end his life, and I supported that decision. 

What concerns me most about the closing of these pain clinics can be summed up in what my husband told me after they reduced his medications. He told me he felt like he had been given three choices. He could turn to illegal drugs, he could suffer unimaginable pain or he could end his life.

These are the choices now faced by the 45,000 impacted by these closures.  Imagine if just 1 percent of these people choose the same option he did. That would mean 450 deaths, 450 families without a loved one, 450 funerals. 

Is that what we really want for people with chronic pain?  Is that what you want for yourself or somebody that you love?  What other options are there for these 45,000 patients?

Looking at it now, seeing these clinics closing, you can see that the patients just do not mean anything to the doctor’s or some of our legislators. 

My question for you, the reader, and our legislators now is quite simple.  What are we going to do to prevent any more suicides? 

What are we going to do to take care of these patients? 

How are we going to provide them treatment before any more lives are lost?

Meredith Lawrence is a former resident of Hendersonville, Tenn. She now resides Gainesville, Ga.

3 Responses

  1. the typing was a bit hard to decipher but i got it.yes,drs.who have compassion are like a terrified fox beset by 100 screaming hounds.People need to be on the phones and emails horse whipping their state senator[s]daily.Here in Fla.it is nelson and rubio,with the states biggest C-S-er ‘Prick Scott’find your state reps and make their life the hell ours are!

  2. Please do not blame doctors. Dr. Hsu treat pain are systematically being hunted. After a five-year battle with my board of medicine I am no please do not blame doctors. Doctors you treat Payne are systematically being hunted. After a fight your battle with my board of medicine I am no Lauter I am no longer treating any opiate patients unless they have a letter from the governor. There is no doubt in my mind if I resume treating opiate patience I will be in prison very soon and cannot help anyone. If I lose my license I cannot help anyone. Doctors who are compassionate and patients who are refugees must come together.

    • As a patient,,I see it as the doctor has the medicine,,to stop my severe physical pain,,and is allowing the,” feral government,”,dea,doj,,to bully them,,which again as a patient,,,you know .someone in severe physical pain,,will do ANYTHING,, to get that physical pain lessen’d,,its called human nature,,which was never ever included in this holocaust,,,but we will do anything to lessen that physical pain,,and it is very very hard whilst in that state of severe physical pain,,to have thee understanding for the person who has the medicine,and won’t give it to you.Most of us,have already lost our lives,ability to work etc,,,I too have lost everything to this opiatephobia hysteria..Also,,not you Dr.Ibsen,,but I seen all over the web,,doctor lying on medical records,kicking people out for filling their script on day 30 verses 31,,The doctors out here,,are NOT,, respecting us either,soo its kinda hard to reciprocate,,u show me no respect,no,compassion,,slandering all over my medical records and choose not to lessen my physical pain,for it is a treatable condition,,,why should I show those doctors any respect?Im just saying it as it happening out here,,,Its very hard to understand,when the people who carry the creditability to stop this,,aren’t,,Your right,,,Doctors should of gotten together BIG TIME,, and done something in the beginning,now and forever,,to stop this torture,genocide of the medically ill,,but,,they didn’t,,Soo again,,walk a mile in our shoes,,were not sitten in prison,,yet,,but there are plans in the works to lock us all up in lunatic asylums like Pennhurst,,the days of archaic old,which are just as bad as prison,,Its hard to not set some blame on doctors,,when we are being blammed everywhere by doctors,thru false medical records,and ultimately being blamed/hurt by taking away the medicine that helped us live life.There are always 2 sides,,and Im just speaking my side,,I have thee upmost respect for Dr.Ibsen,,he has tried to help all of us,,,,but there are a lot of doctors out there ,,I jmo say 75%,,who are NOT,, trying to help us,,only hurt us,,by being more concerned about their pocket books and fear of the dea taking their life work,,,over treating the medicaly ill,Dr.Ibsen I believe u r in the minority,who actualy tried to stop this. I firmly believe,,the dea/doj,hhs,cdc,klondyn and his gang of Nazi’s ideologist,,are 100 %% to blame for all of this,,They are the arrogance,the prejudice,the bigots,the liars,the propagandist,the torturer and the geniciders,behind all of thus,,,maryw

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