Roy Green: Waterboarding is illegal, yet chronic pain is tolerated

Denying chronic agony patients medication is committing torture, Roy Green writes.
Denying chronic agony patients medication is committing torture, Roy Green writes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Waterboarding suspected terrorists, even for mere seconds, is considered so cruel it has been defined as torture and banned. Yet governments are also willing to tolerate another form of cruelty and torture — denying medication to those suffering constant pain.

This is the real opioid crisis. And it’s a story that is being overlooked by most of the mainstream media.

Last weekend I spoke on air with Desiree, a 36-year-old wife, mother and former athlete in the U.S. She is considering suicide because her chronic pain agony is unbearable.

Doctors refuse to prescribe her the opioid medication which, for years, allowed Desiree to tolerate her pain and live a relatively stable life.

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This weekend I will be speaking with a young Alberta mother of two who is also being denied refills of her years-long opioid pain prescriptions. Government and medical agencies seem quite content to kick her to the curb, indifferent to their cruelty.

Dr. Thomas Kline is one of very few doctors in either Canada or the U.S. who is actively and openly speaking in defence of prescribing opioids to chronic pain patients.

Thursday morning on Twitter, Dr. Kline said “the mass hysteria is so bad that even doctors with painful diseases are being cut off without tapering.”

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Media reports of deaths by opioids almost invariably refer to generic drug addicts and not chronic pain patients. When a chronic pain patient overdoses from street drugs, the question becomes, Why did the pain patient feel the need to do business with a drug dealer? And the answer, usually, is because the patient’s prescription drugs were halted and life became a living hell.

While suicide isn’t the choice of many chronic pain sufferers, Dr. Fiona Campbell, an anesthetist at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and president-elect of the Canadian Pain Society, shared the pattern with me in an interview.

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For patients who ultimately take their own lives because of chronic pain, the sequence is pain, social isolation, depression, suicide.

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Allowing even one human being to end life because of medication refusal is a moral outrage.

On Nov. 18, 2016, a federal opioid conference and summit was held in Ottawa. The summit was co-hosted by then-federal Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Philpott. You may have heard my interview with Dr. Philpott about opioids.

If her answers I received were intended to support and justify denial of medication, they failed miserably. The minister had no sustainable or credible position.

While statistics like 865 overdose deaths in Ontario in 2016 are frequently cited and while those deaths are very unfortunate, they pale in number to the 37,000 who die annually in Canada from tobacco-related illness. Have you noticed any federal or provincial initiative to completely end tobacco production and sale? No.

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Many millions of people in North America suffer from constant chronic pain, which destroys their quality of life, causes immobility, and ends relationships. Pain becomes the dominant fact in their lives.

Visit my Twitter account (@theroygreenshow) and read tweets from pain patients and Dr. Klein.

Torture is illegal. Waterboarding of terror suspects is illegal. Denying chronic agony patients the only medication which is readily available to them and which has proven to reduce their pain levels is committing torture.

Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Corus radio network.

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