By Kindy Lemmon
My 26-year-old daughter, Madison, is an extremely intelligent, articulate, creative and beautiful young woman. Anyone blessed with these attributes should be well on their way to a wonderful and fulfilling life. But Madison is suffering in ways that most people could never imagine. Diagnosed at 13 years old with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (CRPS/RSD), an incurable and progressive chronic pain disease of the sympathetic nervous system, she lives every day in severe pain.
CRPS/RSD is ranked as the most painful form of chronic pain that exists today by the McGill Pain Index. With the advice of numerous physicians over the last 13 years, we have tried every possible remedy and every possible treatment. None of them worked. So many days, I can only hold her in my arms as she cries in agony. The only thing that eases her suffering slightly is her prescription of opioid medication. Yet the government, in a short-sighted effort to combat widespread opioid abuse, wants to take Madison’s lifeline away. She, along with many others in her situation, are apparently considered collateral damage.
Collateral damage is not acceptable. Our military does the best it can to minimize collateral damage on the innocent and unintended targets even if it means sparing the intended targets. This is supported by not only by our government, but by the international community as well. And it should be that way. It’s compassionate.
Why, then, is our government inflicting cruel and unusual punishment for innocent victims here at home? They are putting extreme pressure upon physicians, under the threat of being removed from their practice, to reduce and/or eliminate the levels of prescribed opioids to all patients. But there will be collateral damage to this. Tens of thousands of people who have chronic pain will suffer. For them, there is no relief without opioid medication, and for whom the reduction or the elimination of their medication will cause unspeakable pain and even death.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Medical doctors in the United States take the Hippocratic Oath that states, “I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.”
How can we be in direct conflict to both the Declaration of Human Rights and the Hippocratic Oath, and cause immense suffering to those of us who are in chronic, incurable pain? How can we reconcile the fact that, as a country, we can show compassion and lend assistance to refugees, and send food and medical aid to Third World countries, yet allow our family and friends to be denied the medication they need to survive?
It is because we are only being shown one side of this story. What we are not shown are the millions of patients in the USA alone who, but for their opioid medication, would be left in constant and excruciating pain. Taking away their right to be treated for their pain is the real opioid crisis.
Sadly, there are thousands of people who die from the over-the-counter drug ibuprofen every year. There are tens of thousands of people dying from their antidepressants and benzodiazepines. There are hundreds of thousands of people who die from complications associated with anticoagulants. Although these numbers are tragic, we would not want to see the physicians associated with these prescriptions threatened. This, however, is exactly what is happening in the case of the opioid crisis.
This is not acceptable.