Viewpoint: Pain is a symptom, not a disease

Emma Passé, an account executive at Employee Benefit Management Services, described her unsuccessful efforts to turn down prescribed painkillers after abdominal surgery and said clinicians must realize "pain is a symptom, not a disease," in an op-ed for USA Today.

Here are four things to know:

1. Ms. Passé told her physicians that she'd had similar surgeries in her past and did not want to receive painkillers. However, clinicians said her "prior surgeries hadn't been anywhere near as serious as this one, and that I was going to need something quite strong to make the pain go away," Ms. Passé wrote in the op-ed.

2. After waking from her surgery, Ms. Passé said a nurse came into her room to administer Dilaudid through her IV.

"When I stopped her, I learned I had already been given Dilaudid once, while unconscious," she wrote. "Every few hours, another nurse would appear and attempt another dose of Dilaudid. When I explained effects that these painkillers tended to cause for me, one nurse seemed to listen at first, then replied that the staff would give me the Dilaudid to manage my pain, and then give me yet another drug, an anti-emetic, to cope with the nausea."

3. Ms. Passé wrote that her surgeon was the only medical professional that supported her decision to not receive prescribed painkillers, noting in her file that her post-discharge medication should be standard Tylenol. However, other hospital staff later updated her note, and Ms. Passé received 40 codeine tablets upon discharge.

4. Many clinicians are too focused on making "the pain go away. … As though the pain itself were a disease or disorder," Ms. Passé wrote in the op-ed. Instead of trying to completely eradicate pain to cater to patient satisfaction and prevent patients from giving negative reviews, clinicians should educate patients that it is natural for the body to feel pain, she argued.

More articles on opioids: 

Justice Department allocates $319M+ to fight opioid epidemic

4 ways hospital leaders can proactively address the opioid epidemic

VA hospitals to add naloxone to AED cabinets

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