Much like grief, pain is subjective and non-quantifiable. There are no scales or machines that can measure the amount of pain we feel as individuals, nor the sensitivity of our nerve endings. Throughout my most recent illness, health care professionals have asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10. That, however, doesn’t go far enough. A rating of 6 for me may be a 3 or a 10 for someone else. There is actually no way to know just how much or how little pain an individual can bear. It has been shown that those of us who suffer from chronic, daily pain become more and more accustomed to pain than those who rarely experience pain.
Where I find this scale rating truly lacking is that certain numbers determine the dosage of pain medication needed to make a patient comfortable. If my 6 is actually equivalent to someone else’s 3 or 10, at least one of us won’t receive enough pain relief and someone else might receive too much. The other thing not taken into account is the weight of the patient to determine dosage. This has made me wonder why veterinarians base dosages for medications on the weight of the animal, but doctors who treat humans do not. That lack of consideration over the years has caused problems in my treatment from time to time.
The other factor that limits proper treatment of pain is that we are living in world where prescription pain medications are fast becoming the drug of choice on the black market and in drug circles. Doctors have become frightened to prescribe for legitimate patients who are suffering, fearing that their name and prescriptions will fall into the wrong hands. There is no central databank – which would be best administered through a central reporting database for all pharmacies – to track by patient ID. By simply tying everything to a patient’s social security number, much of the illegal sales of prescription drugs could be curtailed. Of course, we are facing a climate where regulation and government involvement, especially in areas which will protect consumers, is a dirty word. Frankly I’m confused that the very people who had no problem with warrantless wiretapping of our phones, invasion of the privacy of our emails or the books we check out from libraries are railing against regulations that keep our air, water, food and pharmaceuticals safe for everyone. Why? The simple answer: business interests and profits trump the health, safety and well-being of our citizens and our planet. Capitalism, the free market and competition are the watch words. Forget about being able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat food that doesn’t contain pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and bacteria or take medications that will improve our health instead of damaging it further. You might want to give a second thought to just what needs to be downsized in the Federal Government. The EPA, FDA, USDA & OSHA are certainly on the short list of many of our recently elected officials. The only freedom most of us will be sacrificing is living as healthy a life as we possibly can.