Bloomberg Restricting Use of Painkillers in NY Public Hospital Emergency Rooms

Mayor Bloomberg Arms Folded PhotoMayor Bloomberg is at it again. The most interfering mayor in America now wants people in pain to be denied painkillers. His rationale? Even if some people who are in great pain will suffer, it's okay if there's even a chance the move will somehow reduce the chances people are selling their excess pain pills to the teenager down the street who wants to get high.

The New York Times reports that Bloomberg has introduced a new city policy. Now most public hospital patients will no longer be able to get more than a three day supply of painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin. The longer acting painkillers, which are used for back pain and arthritis pain, such as OxyContin and Fentanyl patches will not be prescribed at all. If you have your prescription stolen or lost, you may not get a refill.

ER doctors are not happy. The president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians, Dr. Alex Rosenau, is not a fan of politicians legislating medical procedures and drug limits. Dr. Rosenau says "It prevents me from being a professional and using my judgment."

So far, the ban only applies to the ER. But these kinds of regulations tend to suffer from mission creep. Private hospitals are being pressured to voluntarily adopt the guidelines. The kinds of people who end up in the ER sometimes have horrific, painful injuries from car accidents, falls and traumatic events. One doctor contacted by the Times noted that someone might fake a toothache to get some pain pills. But banning meds this way will hurt the person who can't get an appointment with a clinic to do oral surgery fora week or more. He also noted that patients with certain types of injuries may need pain killers until the swelling goes down and surgery can be performed. Under these rules, they are out of luck.

Bloomberg discussed the issue on his weekly radio interview. Politicker reports that the mayor isn't concerned about the physical suffering his plan will cause. When told of critics' concerns that the poor and uninsured will be the most affected by the policy, he admitted that people will just have to suffer for his goals: "Somebody said, oh, somebody wrote, 'Oh then maybe there won't be enough painkillers for the poor who use the emergency rooms as their primary care doctor. Number one, there's no evidence of that. Number two, supposing it is really true, so you didn't get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit. The other side of the coin is people are dying and there's nothing perfect."

Mayor Bloomberg needs to stay out of medical decisions that should be made by a doctor in communication with his patient. We are reminded of the quote by C.S. Lewis: "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

Photo: City of New York

Posted on January 12, 2013

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