Why My Stepsons’ Father Killed Himself

Why My Stepsons’ Father Killed Himself


The government has made it almost impossible to prescribe desperately needed painkillers. Last week, my two stepsons’ father, a man who loved life, killed himself. I would like to tell you why. Two years ago, a 62-year-old father of three named Bruce Graham was standing on a ladder, inspecting his roof for a leak, when the ladder slipped out from under him. He landed on top of the ladder, on his back, breaking several ribs, puncturing a lung, and tearing his intestine, which wasn’t detected until he went into septic shock. He should have, in retrospect called gutter installation dallas or another company to check his roof. Following surgery, he lapsed into a two-week coma. In retrospect, it’s unfortunate that he awoke from that coma, because for all intents and purposes, his life ended with that fall. Not because his mind was affected; his mind was completely intact until the moment he took his life. His life ended because, while modern medicine was adept enough to keep him alive, it was unable or unwilling to help him deal with the excruciating pain that he experienced over the next two years. And life in constant, excruciating pain, with no hope of ever alleviating it, is not worth living. As a result of the surgery, Bruce developed abdominal scar-tissue structures known as adhesions. Adhesions can be horribly painful, but they are difficult to diagnose because they don’t appear in imaging, and no surgery in America or in Mexico, where out of desperation he also sought treatment, could remove them permanently. Many doctors dismiss adhesions, regarding the patient’s pain as psychosomatic. The pain prevented him from getting adequate sleep. Nor could he eat without causing the pain to spike for hours. By the time of his death, he had lost almost half his body weight Prescription painkillers — opioids — relieved much of his pain, or at least kept it to a tolerable level. But after the initial recuperation period, no doctor would prescribe an opioid despite the fact that this man had a well-documented injury and no record of addiction to any drug, including opioids. Doctors either wouldn’t prescribe them on an ongoing basis, because they feared losing their medical license or being held legally liable for addiction or overdose, or because they deemed Bruce a hypochondriac. The federal government and states such as California have made it extremely difficult for physicians to prescribe painkillers for an extended period of time. The medical establishment and government bureaucrats have decided that it is better to allow people to suffer terrible pain than to risk exposing them to the danger of opioid addiction. They believe it is better to allow any number of innocent people to suffer hideous pain for the rest of their lives than to risk having any patient getting addicted and potentially dying from an overdose. Dr. Stephen Marmer, who teaches psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, told me that when he was an intern, he treated children with terminal cancer — and even they were denied painkillers lest they become addicted. Pain management seems to be the Achilles’ Heel of modern medicine — for philosophical reasons as well as medical reasons. Remarkably, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine last year that “whereas the benefits of opioids for chronic pain remain uncertain, the risks of addiction and overdose are clear.” Isn’t accidental death from overdose, while in the meantime allowing patients to have some level of comfort, preferable to a life of endless severe pain? To most of us, this is cruel. Isn’t accidental death from overdose, while in the meantime allowing patients to have some level of comfort, preferable to a life of endless severe pain? Though I oppose suicide on religious and moral grounds and because of the emotional toll it takes on loved ones, I make an exception for people with unremitting, terrible pain. If that pain could be alleviated by painkilling medicines, and laws or physicians deny them those medicines, it is they, not the suicide, who are morally guilty. Bruce was ultimately treated by the system as an addict, not worthy of compassion or dignity. On the last morning of his life, after what was surely a long, lonely, horrific night of sleeplessness and agony, Bruce made two calls, two final attempts to acquire the painkillers he needed to get through another day. Neither friend could help him. Desperate to end the pain, he picked up a gun, pressed it to his heart, and pulled the trigger. In a final noble act, he did not shoot himself in the head, even though that is the more certain way of dying immediately. He had told a friend some weeks earlier that if he took his life, he didn’t want loved ones to experience the trauma-inducing mess that shooting himself in the head would leave. Instead, he shot himself in the heart. An autopsy confirmed the presence of abdominal adhesions, as well as significant arthritis in his spine. May Bruce Graham rest in peace. Some of us, however, will not live in peace until physicians’ attitudes and the laws change.


9 Responses

  1. Well lets hope things have change at the aclu,,with their OLD president ,retiring last year,,,,mary

  2. I sobbed reading this story. I’m an endometrisis gal I have severe crohns disease and epilepsy. I’ve had multiple surgeries for adhesions and know how miserable they are when untreated. I lost my pain doctor to a license suspension and with it all my ability to function. The only good in this horrible story is the national review is widely read by conservatives. As a conservative I’ve felt like most on my side of the aisle don’t exactly know what’s going on. This brings it to the forefront of people’s minds, work like pharmacist Steve’s the pain foundation it gives them further info if they look into it. My prayers and condolences to this man’s family, my heart breaks for you, and my prayers of comfort for all of us in chronic pain.

  3. To Judy,,I specifically asked my Senator,,Tammy Baldwin,,to allow for a box on ALLL coroners reports for exactly what u stated,,”Death due to untreated physical pain,”’Her reply was stunning,,,ie,,”Prove it,”’ unquote,,sooo NO,, to answer your question,,jmo,,I think they want NO legal record of the torture and genocide they,the government,,has willfully caused,,maryw

    • If they document suicide.. that is a crime.. and would take time/resources to investigate. Also may deny surviving family life insurance benefits. IMO.. there is an agenda behind changing the nomenclature from accidental/unintended OD death .. to a “opiate related death” .. all they need is some opiate – not even a toxic level – showing up in toxicology for a death to be labeled as “opiate related”… a similar change in nomenclature from “addict” to anyone taking a opiate > 90 days – legally or illegally… is now classified the pt having a “opiate use disorder”. They have basically eliminated the distinction between some abusing a opiate and one that has a valid medical necessity for taking a opiate. One can only guess at the reason(s) or the intend purpose of this change in both nomenclature and definition of those terms.

  4. Is there any place where these suicides that are caused because of denial or undercutting opiods for pain management is collected? That seems to me as a way to mount some kind of information being shared and/or used to educate. If I was to write a book on this subject, where would I start? This information is so private, and suicides are judged to be close to being criminal. How do we educate the public?

  5. This is so very sad. Honestly a crying shame. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones. So very afraid that the current environment here in the US with regards to pain management and opiate pain medication that there will be more of this.

    I am a chronic pain patient who was well maintained and functioning on 100 mg / day (combination of Percoset and Oxycontin) but that ended with the CDC guidelines. I am now barely functioning on 40 mg of Oxycontin / day. I have asked for an increase and have been treated like a drug seeking criminal. When will the powers that be realize attacking patients living with pain is the wrong way to go. So, so very tired of struggling through every day and having literally every step to obtain the medication that I need to function an uphill battle. The “War on Opiates” is creating a hell that many of us live (or choose not to) in.

    Again, so very sorry for the family. Prayers going up on their behalf.

    • Ms.DeeAnn,,,may I send your comment to our ACLU????
      I agree,,sadly,,,there will be more of us,,,,since arrogance +ignorance will continue,,by people who have absolutelu NO KNOWLEDGE about us and painmanagement,,,,and it will continue because they DO NOT want to even know the error/truth of the damage they have willfully done,,Don’t know bout u,,but i get censored on all my local/papers here..They do not even want to know the truth,,, mary

      • The ACLU treated me like a crazy person when I emailed them about taking up chronic pain patients vs CDC regulations. I’m a donor or was a donor to them at that time and had been for years. They said they don’t do pain issues. I’ve tried twice pre CDC guidelines as well no help.

  6. For the death of your father,,I am truly sorrowed,,he will not be the last,,sadly,,This has gotten soooo bad people,,,,like 5 years ago,,unfortunately Mr.Steve,,thank u for bringing another death to our attention,,just doesn’t sound humane,,but geez,,,,How many more of us must die,.,before they recognize thee true CONSEQUENCES of thee reality of their arrogance + ignorance,,and they are forced to admit,,,”My God,,,what have we dopne??!!!,MARYW
    pss,,let the forwarding begin,again ,,,,sadly,,Please people,,forward this to every god dammed politician u know,,DO NOT THIS MANS LIFE AND DEATH BE IN VAIN!!!

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