Destigmatizing the Pain Patient: Proposals for Systemic Reform

A New Hampshire-based specialist on physical medicine, rehabilitation, and pain management has written a book assessing the state of pain care in the US and the conclusions are not good. Needless Suffering: How Society Fails Those with Chronic Pain by David Nagel, MD, offers a sociological examination of chronic pain and the inability of doctors, other health professionals, and the current healthcare system to understand and manage it in their patients. “When patients do not get better, rather than admit our limitations, we often blame them, attributing their pain to some character flaw,” says Nagel. “We ostracize these patients and challenge their integrity, aggravating an already challenging problem.”

Patients with chronic pain, writes Dr. Nagel are the “poor of the medical world.” Like the poor, they are left in a dysfunctional status quo that subjects them to suffering with little control over their own destinies. The book is intended for pain patients and their families, as well as other stakeholders including healthcare providers, legislators, and other public policymakers, insurers, government regulators, law enforcement personnel, and healthcare businesspeople. Lynn Webster, MD, comments, “This book should be mandatory reading by healthcare regulators, lawmakers, and anyone who wants to remove the stigma of the most prevalent medical problem in America: chronic pain.”

To access the painweek.org library of articles about chronic pain, tap here.

Commentary on the book from The National Pain Report may be read here.

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