*A Nation in Pain*

The author is Judy Foreman and the subtitle of this excellent book is Healing our Biggest Health Problem.  Here is one excerpt:

In those not-so-old days when Jeffrey was born, as a preemie, many doctors mistakenly believed that babies’ nervous systems were too immature to process pain and that, therefore, babies didn’t feel pain at all.  Or, doctors rationalized, if babies did somehow feel pain, it was no big deal because they probably wouldn’t remember it.  Besides, since nobody knew for sure how dangerous anesthesia drugs might be in tiny babies, doctors figured that if surgery was necessary to save a child’s life, they’d better operate anyway — and comfort themselves with the hope that the child wouldn’t feel pain.  As one scientific paper from those days intoned, “Pediatric patients seldom need medication for relief of pain.  They tolerate discomfort well,”

That’s preposterous, obviously.  But doctors had to have these self-protective beliefs for their own emotional survival, says Neil Schechter, a pediatric pain physician at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “Doctors were not sure how to do anesthesia in babies.  In response, they had to believe  that the babies couldn’t feel pain.  They were too scared of the anesthetics.”

Here is part of the Amazon summary:

Out of 238 million American adults, 100 million live in chronic pain. And yet the press has paid more attention to the abuses of pain medications than the astoundingly widespread condition they are intended to treat. Ethically, the failure to manage pain better is tantamount to torture. When chronic pain is inadequately treated, it undermines the body and mind. Indeed, the risk of suicide for people in chronic pain is twice that of other people. Far more than just a symptom, writes author Judy Foreman, chronic pain can be a disease in its own right — the biggest health problem facing America today.

This book will make my best of the year list.


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