The Documentary, “Dr. Feelgood”, released in late 2016, deals with what has become the very complicated issue of pain management in the United States.
The medications that are prescribed for pain have become headline making, and there is, as we who live in Chronic Pain well know, a very strong “push” in our society against pain medication. For those living with Chronic Pain and too, the Doctors who work to help patients in pain, it has all become more challenging (and scarier) than ever.
In a review in the New York Times the complex nature of the crossroads we are currently facing, between helping patients with pain and learning how to deal with the addiction issues (and the various results of such) associated with the medicines we use, are brought well into the fuzzy focus that is the reality of the situation.
“Ms. Marson (the film’s producer and who also had a hand in writing the film) nudges the narrative neither one way nor the other, preferring to step back and let her interviewees speak for themselves.
While critically laudable, this laissez-faire approach results in competing personal stories — unfussily captured in direct-to-camera setups — that yank our sympathies both toward Dr. Hurwitz (aka “Dr. Feelgood”) and away from him. Was he a compassionate godsend to those whose agony had been played down or discounted by previous physicians?
Or was he a gullible, perhaps criminal accomplice to patients who were conning him to feed an addiction or resell their prescriptions?
Bubbling to the surface, though, is the realization that the two charges are not mutually exclusive.”
The film addresses the serious nature of pain management and too, the prevalence of the condition in our society today. It also highlights the fact that we have no objective measure for pain and the clear fact that pain medication plays an essential and vitally important role, despite the difficulties that some may face, in helping those who live with pain, short-term or long-term.
“Dr. Hurwitz’s “office in the Virginia suburbs of Washington was like a Lourdes for people with pain, one of the most widespread health problems. Surveys have found that one in five adults deals with chronic pain, and that it is treated adequately only about half the time.
Prescribing opioids was once taboo because of concerns over patients’ becoming addicted. But medical opinion gradually shifted over the past two decades as researchers concluded that high doses of opioids could sometimes be safer and more effective than alternatives like surgery or injections,” according to The Times.
The Variety review of the film concludes by lamenting the contradictory conclusions that the film brings poignantly into focus and finally, by stating what those struggling with Chronic Pain know oh so well,
“His actual legal fate would encompass a retrial and several years in prison. But Dr. Hurwitz still insists “I feel like I’ve led a moral life and done good in the world.” (Certainly his motive was not profit — he couldn’t afford bail when arrested.) Called variably a savior and a demon by those affected by his prescription pad, he’s less hyperbolically labeled as profoundly naive by his closest colleagues.
While punishing physicians for overprescribing (and related deaths) continues, it is noted that there is scant more medical consensus on the virtues and hazards of prescribing painkillers than 20 years ago.”