Challenges Doctors Face in Treating Pain – Wall Street Journal Article

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • Last week I spoke with Melinda Beck, health columnist for the Wall Street Journal for an hour.  She was interviewing me for an article she was writing about the dilemma doctors face in determining how much pain patients are really in.  She had already talked with a number of pain specialists and wanted to get the patients' perspective. 

    Her article appeared on page D1 of today's paper and can be read online here:  Doctors' Challenge: How Real Is That Pain?

    Given the limited space she was alloted for the article, Ms. Beck did a good job of identifying the problem.  Of course, I always want to see more about how the difficulties in diagnosing and treating pain affect the patients.  But since her assignment was to write about how hard it is for doctors to accurately distinguish between people who are really in pain and those simply seeking drugs, I really appreciate that she took the time to ask how this problem impacts patients.

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    So much of what we see in the media focuses on the drug abuse aspect.  It's nice to see an article that  acknowledges the fact that pain is frequently undertreated, that patients are often made to feel like criminals just because they want relief from their pain, and that determining how much pain a patient is really experiencing is extremely difficult for doctors.

    I'd love to see a major media outlet do an in-depth series of articles looking at the myriad of issues surrounding the treatment of chronic pain.  It's a complex problem and there are no simple answers.  Hopefully, the Institute of Medicine report issued last week will inspire more articles that point out the need for better treatment options for chronic pain.

Published On: July 05, 2011