Pain Patients and Doctors Have Civil Rights Too

Pain Patients and Doctors Have Civil Rights Too — Pain News Network – By Richard Dobson, MD – November 2018

Dr. Dobson makes the point that pain patients’ civil rights about being violated because we and our doctors are being criminally punished for crimes committed by others.

In a recent column, I described the diversion of blame for the opioid crisis as an example of “Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another,” [See previous post Diversion of Blame and the Opioid Crisis] a psychiatric condition in which a person imposes an illness on someone who is not really sick.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a plea deal in which a former police chief in Florida pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of innocent people by making false arrests “under color of law.” I think there are some striking parallels between the way these innocent victims were treated and the way that chronic pain patients and their doctors are treated today. 

For several years, Chief Raimundo Atesiano and officers in the Biscayne Park police department conspired to arrest innocent people, falsely accusing them of committing burglaries and robberies.  The arrests were based on phony evidence and confessions, all because Atesiano wanted to show he was tough on crime and solving cases. Several officers plead guilty to the conspiracy and were prepared to testify against Artesiano when he entered his plea.

Let’s examine the logic of this case:

  • “A” is an innocent person who has committed no crime.
  • “B” is a criminal who has burglarized homes and cars.
  • “C” is a person in authority who blames “A” for the crimes committed by “B.”

C” has not been able to apprehend “B” and does not have any leads on how to catch him.  However, by diverting blame to “A”, “C” can claim that he has a much higher rate of solving crimes.

…regulators and law enforcement agencies like the CDC and DEA are using misleading information and overdose statistics to go after prescription opioids, when the real problem is those who misuse black market drugs.

Doctors who still treat chronic pain are also being targeted to end the legitimate medical distribution of opioid medication to patients. They are sanctioned with loss of license and some are even imprisoned for “overprescribing.”

Meanwhile, the real source of the public health problem – drug dealers, addicts and recreational users — are largely going unpunished. It is these non-medical users that account for the vast majority of overdoses.

It was a civil rights violation for Atesiano and his officers to falsely blame innocent people while ignoring the real criminals. In similar fashion, equal justice demands that it should be a violation of the civil rights of pain patients and doctors to be factitiously blamed for the crimes of illicit substance use and drug trafficking.

Author: Richard Dobson, MD, worked as a physician in the Rochester, New York area for over 30 years, treating and rehabilitating people suffering from chronic pain, mostly as the result of work or motor vehicle accidents.  He is now retired.

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