Articles Posted in Pain

blue-300x206They may seem small and may be symbolic, but Britain and Japan both are taking steps to deal with suicide, a public health menace by which 45,000 Americans age 10 or older took their lives by their own hand in 2016 alone.

In Britain, the New York Times reported that Prime Minister Theresa May appointed health minister Jackie Doyle-Price to lead “government efforts to cut the number of suicides and overcome the stigma that prevents people with mental health problems from seeking help. While suicide rates have dropped in recent years, about 4,500 people take their own lives each year in England. It remains the leading cause of death for men under age 45.”

Britain, like the United States, has struggled to provide adequate and appropriate mental health care to its people, even though it has a national health service. And Britons, like their friends across the ocean, are reluctant to seek mental health care for multiple reasons, including stigmatization.

Scotus-300x167Although Uncle Sam makes a special vow to provide medical care for those who fight for this nation, he also enjoys special legal shields from lawsuits from them if anything goes wrong with medical services they’re provided. But recent news reports show how past and present service personnel not only suffer shabby medical care but also “grossly unfair” situations when pursuing malpractice claims  — and why lawmakers and courts may need to step in to provide fairer remedies.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) and the ABC-TV news affiliate in Los Angeles both deserve credit for spotlighting tough cases involving service personnel and medical malpractice, particularly the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Feres doctrine, a 68-year-old Supreme Court case that bars active-duty military members from suing the federal government for their own injuries.

Walter Daniel, a former Coast Guard officer, has petitioned the Supreme Court to “amend the 1950 [Feres] ruling, creating an exception that would allow service members to sue for medical malpractice the same way civilians can,” KHN reported, noting this would affect patients in a military health system “with 54 hospitals and 377 medical clinics, serv[ing] about 9.4 million beneficiaries, including nearly 1.4 million active-duty members.

drugs-300x179Congress has approved a major new push to deal with the opioid crisis that kills tens of thousands of Americans annually. Voters can expect President Trump to sign the big bill, passed easily and with rare bipartisan support in the House and Senate, just in time for politicians in the mid-term elections to campaign on their drug-fighting initiatives. But critics say it won’t be enough.

The opioids legislation covers 650 pages, and, in brief, the Washington Post reported, would:

  • Require the U.S. Postal Service to screen packages for fentanyl shipped from overseas, mainly China. Synthetic opioids that are difficult to detect are increasingly being found in pills and heroin and are responsible for an increase in overdose deaths.

andrews-300x208Celebrities can play an out-sized role in medicine and health care: Just consider the public attention paid to Angela Jolie or Ben Stiller and their discussions about cancer screening and the disease’s risks, or Michael Phelps, Mariah Carey, and Carrie Fisher raising awareness about mental health issues, or, yes, Gwyneth Paltrow promoting a rash of wellness goop.

But even with their wealth, accomplishment, looks, and social standing, public figures also can be savaged just like ordinary folks by medical errors that harm and even kill them and their loved ones, according to the Center for Justice and Democracy.

Michael_Jackson_in_1988-169x300The group has put out a study with 22 cases, documented by lawsuits and medical board sanctions, to show that, “Celebrity is no safeguard when it comes to medical malpractice,” Emily Gottlieb, the report’s author and the center’s deputy director for law and policy, said in a statement. “As this report illustrates, patients with fame and fortune are just as likely to be horrifically injured or killed by dangerous health providers as the general public.”

cduntsch-300x300It carries the plot line of a compelling crime story: A knife-wielding assailant works his way into exclusive institutions across a metropolis. There, time after time, he rips into  victims, inflicting great pain and suffering. He acts under the noses of people who should know better. He gets stopped only when someone in law enforcement steps beyond norms to bring him to justice. There’s even a systemic flaw that makes the drug abusing criminal’s acts more awful.

It’s painful and tragic, however, that the saga of Christopher Duntsch, aka “Dr. Death,” is all too gory, true, and potentially avoidable. It has become even more public via modern technology, an increasingly popular and free podcast by Laura Beil on the Wondery site.

Duntsch, now serving a life sentence in prison, moved from one hospital to another in Dallas, where the cancer-researcher and neurosurgeon morphed himself into a spinal surgeon. He was awful. Colleagues reported him to hospitals and medical licensing officials. They stepped in front of him in operating suites and took instruments out of his hands during surgeries. Duntsch, D magazine says, abused drugs, partied, and talked about having wild sex often before long, complex operations. There have been reports that he may intentionally have tried to maim patients. His surgeries were tied to deaths.

brainlinetbi-300x245Rigorous researchers avoid leaping to unfounded conclusions, but  it’s hard not to look at two separate studies on areas of high current interest and just go “Hmmm ….”

In the first work, experts from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed available reports and surveys to find that 15.1 percent of American high school students or 2.5 million or so “reported having at least one of these concussions” in the most recent year, while 6 percent reported two or more concussions.

The researchers said:

cdcnytopioidtoll-300x262In 2017, drug overdoses killed 72,000 Americans, a 10 percent increase over 2016 and yet another record, according to the latest provisional federal estimates.

That single year toll would be more than double the American deaths attributed to the Korean War, and almost 1.25 times those  caused by the Vietnam War. The New York Times reported that 2017’s overdose deaths were “higher than the peak yearly death totals from HIV, car crashes or gun deaths.”

The newspaper said experts, analyzing the numbers, blamed them on a few reasons (see NYT chart above): “A growing number of Americans are using opioids, and drugs are becoming more deadly. It is the second factor that most likely explains the bulk of the increased number of overdoses last year.”

cdc-opi-aug-300x227When Big Pharma pursues rapacious profits and regulators snooze, patients suffer terrible consequences, as new revelations about the opioid crisis show.

Kaiser Health News Service , via the Washington Post, and The New York Times both have done excellent investigative digging into drug makers’ role in fueling the prescription painkiller mess that authorities estimate claims 116 lives a day due to overdoses.

Fred Schulte, writing for the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser service, reported that rival makers — seeing how much money Purdue Pharma was making with its powerful and addictive OxyContin drug and that it was encountering law enforcement and regulatory challenges — stepped in with “similarly dangerous painkillers, such as fentanyl, morphine and methadone.”

claire-199x300
Americans should be wary lest they get in between Big Pharma and a buck.

That’s what investigators for a U.S. Senate subcommittee showed when scrutinizing how industry middlemen inundated the Show Me State with more than a billion doses of powerful prescription painkillers, making big profits but asking few questions how so many opioid drugs could be taken by so few patients.

It’s also what patients might see as drug makers retreat from research to develop needed new antibiotics and therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

cdc-3suicide-300x117Uncle Sam’s sobering new report about suicide rates rising in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with fatal increases across age, gender, race and ethnicity, became even more somber and urgent with the shock and grief expressed widely over the self-inflicted deaths of chef-raconteur Anthony Bourdain in France and fashion designer-entrepreneur Kate Spade in Manhattan.

Suicide no longer should be viewed solely as a personal mental health problem but also now as a public health crisis, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned.  Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, told the Washington Post: “The data are disturbing. The widespread nature of the [suicide rate] increase, in every state but one, really suggests that this is a national problem hitting most communities.”

The suicides of Bourdain, 61, and Spade, 55, hit many hard, as was reflected in the extensive media coverage and social media reactions. Both Bourdain and Spade rose from modest circumstances, with abundant hard work, talent, personality, and ambition, to lead lives in the spotlight, and with an economic comfort that others would envy and consider glamorous. They were “successes.”

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