Dying Cancer Patient Forced to Choose Between Chemotherapy and Pain Treatment

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For more than a hundred years, healthcare providers in America have promoted themselves as honoring a sacred trust relationship between provider and patient. One where providers were committed to promoting good health, compassionate care and long productive lives for patients. In the last seven years that focus has changed, redefine for a select group dealing with pain. The new definition is now owned by providers and the state, patients are no longer given a voice. If we allow them to play by their rules, patients no longer own their bodies, they no longer own their lives, they have been relegated to a data point with an insurance policy which presents an obstacle to billing a claim. Something to be manipulated, used and consumed.

A Family Member’s Story

This shocking and compelling story needs to be shared with the Public and Governing Agencies (Medicare, CDC, NIH, DEA) via the Press and Social Media. These elderly pain patients are old, sick, exhausted and need help because they don’t know how to do it and are just struggling to survive. What an unimaginable choice, Chemotherapy or Opioids, because Kaiser Permanente will not give you both.

1/17/2019, I watched my partner of 50 years as she was forced to sign her own death warrant. She was forced to give up the Keytruda (a gene targeted Chemotherapy that was shrinking her tumors or at least stopping the growth) that was helping her, and sign up for Medicare’s Hospice program, because they were the only one’s willing to give her pain medicine. Most assuredly this will hasten her demise, but she just could not stand the pain any longer.

She has been fighting so hard for the last two years. She has metastasized Lung Cancer and has had a Lobe of her Lung removed. Between the Lung Cancer, Congestive Heart Failure (18 Heart Attacks last year) and COPD (on oxygen now) she is struggling to survive. In the last two years, half a dozen doctors have told her she would be dead within six months. She keeps fighting with a joyously fierce attitude. She wakes up happy every day, thankful to be alive for another day, no matter what it brings.

One of the biggest problems was that she tested positive for THC a few years ago. She explained that she had been taking Cannabidiol capsules (Medicinal Marijuana – CBD), the Montel Williams brand, and that she received the herbal medicine through the prescription of a non-Kaiser doctor in compliance with California laws. The very same Cannabidiol capsules that a Harvard University Study recently said can stop the growth of her type of Lung Cancer tumors in two weeks. Kaiser’s reply to this was that she was “a drug addict buying street drugs” and wrote on her file in capital letters that she was not to receive pain medicine ever again. All this because she tested positive for Marijuana a second time.

We both have pleaded and appealed for years to have our methadone back, to no avail. She originally had her Opioids denied because her drug test came back positive for marijuana. Before that she was a traditional 76-year-old little arthritic woman with one leg, cancer, a bad heart and multiple other problems that was being cared for with pain management, without any problems or misuse.

The hospital called her, and many others, Drug addicts and told us to stop whining and go to Rehab. Her primary Care Doctor trembled, and her voice shook as she said, “NO, they will take my medical license and put me in Jail.” She seems to be truly terrified. The Heart Doctor also said “No.” We think either the Heart Doctor or one of the ER doctors sent a referral for her to Hospice. But the Heart Doctor also told her “no pain medicine, consult the Pain Clinic.”

The Cancer Doctor told the Hospice people to go away, because she can no longer receive the life prolonging chemotherapy drug (Keytruda), if on Hospice. He also referred her back to the Pain Clinic. Essentially all her doctors refused to give her back the pain medicine that she had been on for years as a documented chronic pain patient.

The Kaiser doctors all refer everybody now to the Pain Clinic, who always says NO to anything. The only one’s that offered to treat her pain with Opioids was Hospice. Her unbelievably difficult choice was to suffer pain and continue with the Keytruda, the targeted Lung Cancer drug that was shrinking cancer tumors, or just give up and sign the DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and go on Hospice where she can get pain relief. The Hospice people are kind, sympathetic, considerate and they will lessen your pain, but you will probably die sooner without the life-saving chemotherapy. She just could no longer stand the unrelenting pain and was forced to make this excruciatingly difficult decision knowing that it would shorten her life.

One of the worst things about the Kaiser Permanente Pain Clinic is their smug arrogance. The clinics call patients “drug addicts” to your face and tell you to “stop whining, nobody ever died from Methadone withdrawal.” When you say you want to appeal, they laugh at you. They stonewall you and make you run a gauntlet to delay time. They make you go to Psychiatrists, Physical Therapy, endless meetings and take massive amounts of Gabapentin/Neurontin (an anti-seizure medication) for months which does not help pain and has bad side effects and finally send you to the Dependence and Rehabilitation facility.

The Pain Clinic states with a straight face that, “pain medicine doesn’t help pain patients.” It helped us and improved our quality of life. I have repeatedly asked for a copy of Kaiser’s Guidelines or State and Federal Statutes, Codes and Regulations they were following, so I could understand what I was fighting against. It is just basic Discovery.

The clinics have repeatedly refused to give out this information even though I provided them with California Codes, Health & Safety Statute 124960 d (A patient suffering from severe chronic pain should have access to proper treatment for his or her pain) and the Business & Professions Statute 2241.5a and b (No physician shall be subject to disciplinary action for prescribing, dispensing, or administering dangerous drugs or prescription controlled substances in accordance with this section).

I submitted Statutes about the Patient’s Bill of Rights. Kaiser Pain Doctors do not even take appeals seriously. They don’t sign or even print their names. They lie, evade and do not even answers all the questions when asked in a formal Appeal. Also, they absolutely refuse to tell you their policy on Marijuana. They don’t take you seriously and don’t even say “sorry, it’s Federal.” They just ignore you or laugh at you and give you off-hand vague comments. They are insensitive bullies. Most doctor’s at least show some sympathy or compassion while saying “No.”

If she is healthy enough to be transported, she wants to rally and fight this miscarriage of justice and lack of common-sense morality. She knows she will probably die before this fight is over, but she wants to help all the other people affected by this mess. She wants to help me and my crumbling spine, even though I passed the second THC drug test, and yet, they still took my pain meds away nine or ten months ago for no reason. This reaction to the Opioid Hysteria is hurting the wrong people. Who is counting how many chronic pain patients and Senior Citizens have been broken and given up under this harsh treatment and committed suicide? This over reaction is forcing people to suffer.

It is so difficult fighting the uninformed prejudice against Cannabidiols. With all her expensive ER visits, CT and MRI scans and the $13,000, every three weeks for her Chemotherapy, one can only wonder if Kaiser is just trying to save money? Is Kaiser literally just passing the buck? Is this as bad as when Kaiser dumped a sick elderly woman in her hospital gown by taxi on the streets of LA in front of a homeless shelter?

What a hellish nightmare to be putting chronic pain patients, senior citizens and even terminal cancer patients through. I can find no possible justification for this cruel inhumane treatment. If you know anyone who can help resolve this issue, please help put us in contact. If we all stand up together maybe, we can help each other. So many unfortunate people have been caught up in this web of misery and opioid prohibition, just because someone has the opinion that we should no longer have access to these life-sustaining pain medications.

The Pain Clinic is fond of saying, “opioids are not appropriate or indicated for long term chronic pain.” We are also weighing the feasibility, effectiveness and Optics of picketing on Kaiser property and having them arrest and place some old ladies, rickety pain patients in patrol cars. Will it further our cause or just kill us off. I am so tired of living needlessly in pain every day. I am tired of my spirit withering away while my body atrophies. We are not suicidal, exactly the opposite, but I anticipate this rate rising due even more to this treatment of our elders.


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