A few weeks ago here in BC a late woman's family released videotapes which contained interviews with the woman and tape of how she was doing at home after hospitals said she didn't need to be admitted. She was dying of cancer and weaned herself off the opioid analgesics apparently because she was worried about addiction. Then the pain got so bad she and her family wanted to have her hospitalized. The docs there told her all they could do was give her a prescription for the same meds she had weaned herself off of in the first place. She could take those medications at home so they felt there was no need to admit her to hospital. She went home and died shortly thereafter. Then the family released the tapes and made a big deal in the press saying that their mother was treated worse than an animal and it was shameful that she wasn't admitted to the hospital. The press made a big deal about the fact that she wasn't admitted, glossing over the fact that she had weaned herself off the meds and that they couldn't do anything more for her in the hospital.
My questions are: don't you think the fear of addiction of pain meds has gotten out of control if dying people with agonizing pain are worried about addiction? And should this woman have been admitted to hospital even when they couldn't do anything more for her than she would get at home? What do you all think of this case?
Jul 21, '01
I have a hard time believing they could do nothing for this poor woman. They could have admitted her for a couple days to get the pain under control with IV meds and then started her on oral meds, and or long acting analgesics. If it were my family member, I would be screaming about this too. Teaching about the use of narcotics with chronic and terminal pain would have been indicated since she had been concerned about addiction, she obviously needed teaching. She weaned herself of these meds due to a knowledge defecit and then when she asked for help, she recieved nothing that was useful. This is a sad story, she suffered for ne reason. I don't buy that they could not help her any more by admitting her.
Jul 22, '01
From what I understand she could have had the IV meds at home (we have hospice and home care workers) and her pain was under control with the meds she had been on. Obviously more education was needed (and I am sure she had received some before this), but again that could be done at home. There was nothing to be done in the hospital that couldn't be done at home and I think we tend to believe that people should remain at home if they can.
I just wonder if education would make a difference. It seems like we are so terrified of addiction that even explaining and educating someone doesn't seem to make a difference. My aunt has worked hospice for years and has told me how many people simply refuse to take their pain medications because of this fear. She will explain that using analgesics for pain doesn't cause addiction and that it is easier to keep pain under control if you take the meds as scheduled (not waiting until you are in unbearable pain), etc. But she just can't convince some people that taking morphine or demerol doesn't make them a junkie. All the studies, stats, explanations in the world will not change their minds. I just wonder what can be done to correct this problem. And if people don't want to take the meds at home, will they want to take them in a hospital? I just wonder if that would really have helped her. I don't know if there is a simple solution to a case like this.