Pain remains one of the most common reasons that people seek medical attention in the United States. When pain was designated as the fifth vital sign, people were given the right to have their pain assessed and effectively treated by their healthcare professionals. A number of ethical dilemmas have surfaced since, including the increased prescribing of opioid medications for patients with chronic pain, in the face of also increasing rates of abuse, misuse, and addiction related to these medications. The “opioid overdose epidemic/crisis” has led us to the challenge of balancing the safe, compassionate, and effective treatment of chronic pain against serious negative outcomes associated with the increased abuse and misuse of these medications. With overdose death rates increasing, tensions running high, a multitude of political and regulatory involvement, and knee-jerk reactiveness, it seems as if the only thing being forgotten is the needs of chronic pain patients and the core ethical principles intended to help clinicians maintain the highest standards of care. This session will describe these principles and clarify their role in determining reproducible courses of action that maximize safety, efficacy, and compassionate pain care, regardless of the direction the “opioid pendulum” is swinging. (Recorded at PAINWeek 2018)
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