CALIFORNIA: “PAIN PATIENT’S BILL OF RIGHTS” NEARS APPROVAL
A bill to make potent drugs more accessible to patients inThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
severe pain passed the state Assembly Health Committee yesterday
by a vote of 18-0 and now heads to the House Appropriations
Committee. The bill has already passed the state Senate (AHL
sources, 7/18). SB 402 would make "highly restricted narcotics"
such as Percodan, Demerol and Dilaudid more available to
"patients with severe and intractable pain," Los Angeles Times
reports. The bill "would require doctors to advise patients who
suffer from 'severe, chronic (and) intractable' pain that
powerful narcotics are legally available that could grant them
relief." According to Dr. Forest Tennant, a West Covina, CA,
physician, approval of the bill would "show that California would
rather 'take care of the sick, the suffering and the dying than
go the suicide route.'"
Tennant and state Sen. Leroy Greene (D) told a news
conference that "many physicians refuse to prescribe these legal
medications for patients who suffer from seemingly untreatable
pain," Times reports. In particular, many doctors fear the
possibility of being sued for malpractice by patients using the
drugs incorrectly. Also, many doctors "are philosophically
opposed to narcotics because they can create dependency." Greene
said, however, that this law would break down these fears and
Critics of the bill argue that "options to expanded access
to narcotics are available. These include surgery, implantation
in the body of devices such as morphine pumps, and nonsurgical
procedures," Times reports. Critics also believe that the bill
will "create new addicts" dependent on these powerful narcotics.
In defense of the bill, Greene said, "Dependency is a matter to
be desired if you are in endless pain." Greene also stated that
making these narcotics more accessible "would enable people
immobilized by pain to achieve a higher quality of life and
return to their jobs" (Ingram, 7/16).