Liberal sympathy

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on January 12, 2013

On Friday, New York Mayor Nanny Michael Bloomberg introduced a measure that would limit the supply of powerful pain medicine in city-run hospitals in New York City.

“The city hospitals we control, so … we’re going to do it and we’re urging all of the other hospitals to do it, voluntary guidelines. Somebody said, oh, somebody wrote, ‘Oh then maybe there won’t be enough painkillers for the poor who use the emergency rooms as their primary care doctor,’” the mayor said on his weekly radio show with John Gambling. “Number one, there’s no evidence of that. Number two, supposing it is really true, so you didn’t get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit. The other side of the coin is people are dying and there’s nothing perfect … There’s nothing that you can possibly do where somebody isn’t going to suffer, and it’s always the same group [claiming], ‘Everybody is heartless.’ Come on, this is a very big problem.”

There’s a word for what Bloomberg is doing: Evil.

Because there are people in this world who abuse drugs, Bloomberg is willing to let people in real pain suffer.

I generally don’t wish ill upon people, but I really do hope that Bloomberg comes down with a chronic condition that causes him not insignificant pain. I’d like to hope that doctors initially conclude he’s faking it and refuse to prescribe him narcotics.

About five or six years ago, on a Sunday night, my back started hurting and the pain was moving down my left leg. Late that night I drove myself to a hospital emergency room as the pain continued to grow. There I received some muscle relaxants and a few pain pills and was sent home. The next morning, I called my doctor, was lucky enough to get an emergency appointment and was diagnosed with sciatica. As I sat in the examination room, the pain was incredible. I had sweat pouring down my face as if I’d just run a marathon. I was prescribed more muscle relaxants and Vicodin, a narcotic painkiller. The pharmacy was about 50 feet from the doctor’s office, but I knew there was no way I could stand or sit for the 20-30 minutes it would take to fill my prescription.

I drove home and called my mother, asking her to drive the 45 minutes to my house to get the prescription and get it filled. My home was less than a 10 minute drive from the doctor’s office and I made it about 3 minutes before I pulled to the side of the road, put the car in park and put the seat in a horizontal position. The pain had become so great, I was having trouble focusing on my driving. After about 15 minutes lying down, I was able to sit up long enough to drive home. I walked in the door and laid in bed for the vast majority of the next week and a half. The pain medication allowed me to tolerate the pain and get a few hours of sleep at a time. I didn’t get any buzz. It didn’t knock me for a loop. It didn’t make me drowsy. It allowed me to tolerate the pain.

Two weeks later, I went to an SDSU men’s basketball game with my father. We took the trolley to the campus and then walked (with a cane I’d bought) the 200 or so yards to the arena. That 200-yard walk took nearly 30 minutes and I had to pause 3-4 times to sit down on conveniently placed benches. (I believe SDSU won.)

It was several months, quite a bit of physical therapy and several big bottles of Vicodin before I was something approaching normal.

Then about four months ago, it happened again. Not nearly as serious. Not nearly as debilitating, but bad nonetheless. I worked short days for about a week, didn’t get much sleep and finally went to a Doc-in-a-box here in San Luis Obispo. The doc prescribed the same thing: Vicodin and muscle relaxants. Enough to give me a week to find a regular doc to treat me.

I found a local doc to treat me, and then discovered, to my dismay that he refuses to prescribe narcotics. Fear of (or maybe not wanting to be bothered by) the DEA has made him make an understandable decision: No narcotics.

By this time my pain level had decreased enough that a non-narcotic, prescription pain reliever was sufficient, but if I need serious pain medication in the future, I’ll need to know about 3 weeks ahead of time: That’s the wait in this town to see a pain specialist who will prescribe narcotics.

So you can understand why I’d find Bloomberg’s dismissive attitude toward needless suffering infuriating. Restless nights. The seemingly never-ending quest to find a position lying down or seated that causes merely less pain.

I continue to move in a more libertarian direction when it comes to the so-called “war on drugs,” especially as it relates to prescription painkillers. We can buy aspirin and ibuprofen over the counter for headaches and muscle aches. But if it’s a more serious pain that those drugs won’t touch, the government requires you to jump through all sorts of hoops to get it? What other product do you have to get government permission to use simply because it works better?

Mayor Bloomberg, your lack of compassion and understanding is disgusting. It is odious. It is evil. You would condemn others—mostly the poor—to a suffering that a wealthy person like you will never need experience. That is evil.


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January 2013



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