Pain is a major symptom of all sorts of medical conditions. It’s the body’s number one alarm system to tell you something is wrong. Those who have the very rare disorder of congenital anesthesia live dangerous lives as they have no warning system. So, in some ways pain can be good.
But for a lot of people pain can be bad. It can be so bad it kills. That’s how people get tortured to death. The pain is so bad, it kills them. Research shows that people who have chronic pain are not only at a higher risk of suicide, but a much higher risk of heart failure leading to death.
So, you would think that something as common and often very serious as pain would have proper medical procedures associated with it, wouldn’t you?
But for so many people pain is the last thing a doctor knows anything about, how to treat, and often refuses to believe the patient’s description of the pain. This in turn leads to the, frankly stupid, opening paragraphs of studies into pain showing fMRI and blood chemistry changes of “Imagine that! The patients weren’t lying! Shock and amazement as science discovers that patients really are in a lot of pain!”
Recently a woman was left to die when a qualified nurse decided that despite the terrible pain she was in, she didn’t require an ambulance. This is one of a deluge of stories of patients left in severe pain, sometimes to die of it, because medical and nursing staff don’t think pain meds are important enough to bother with. Or they are wrapped in the myth that patients requesting pain meds are junkies. (And that’s before you consider that a person with an addiction needs more than dismissal as well!)
There have been some tragic deaths when people, having no proper pain management from their doctor will end up accidentally overdosing on over the counter drugs as they desperately try to get some relief.
Are doctors really so dim, so incapable of listening and making observations that they need to see very expensive (not available on the NHS as far as I’ve seen) High Spec fMRIs and SPECT scans before they will help a person get on top of their pain?
It was the great Dr. Osler who pointed out that as medics relied too much on machines that the standards of medicine would decline. I don’t think, even in his nightmares he envisaged a computer deciding whether a woman in so much pain it was going to kill her, should be refused an ambulance.
A return to basic compassion and a genuine recognition of the devastation that pain can cause is urgently required. Whatever happened to common sense and common human decency?