West Virginia Escalates War on Pain Control, States the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)

TUCSON, Ariz., July 11, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In its zeal to combat the epidemic of deaths from opioid overdose, West Virginia has enacted another impediment for physicians who use these drugs for their necessary, appropriate purpose of controlling severe pain, states the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

Senate Bill 273, the Opioid Reduction Act of 2017 (“Act”), specifically W.Va. Code §16-54-2, “sets out a process enabling individuals to decline, in advance, any treatment option that includes opioids,” according to Health Advisory #148 from the W.V. Department of Health and Human Resources.

Medical practitioners, under pain of civil or criminal liability, are supposed to check whether a patient has signed a Voluntary NonOpioid Advanced Directive before prescribing or administering an opioid drug. There is an exception: “A practitioner, without actual knowledge of a VNOAD and who prescribes an opioid in a medical emergency situation, is not civilly or criminally liable for failing to act in accordance with the VNOAD unless the act or omission was the result of the practitioner’s gross negligence or willful misconduct.”

“Inexplicably, anesthesiologists are not exempted,” notes AAPS executive director Jane M. Orient, M.D. “Yet the use of opioids such as intravenous fentanyl is an integral part of anesthesia practice. Moreover, it is not clear whether intense pain on emergence from anesthesia constitutes an ‘emergency situation’ in the view of the regulators.”

“Doctors and pharmacists are being blamed for the spike in opioid overdoses,” Dr. Orient adds, “but the government’s own statistics show that the increase is from illegal heroin and fentanyl.”

Transnational drug cartels should be the government’s focus, not pain patients and their doctors,” she stated.

“I don’t know why any patient would sign that VNOAD. If he has a painful injury or surgery, he may well regret it. Any patient who doesn’t want an opioid prescribed can always just say so,” she concluded.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, founded in 1943.

Contact: Jane M. Orient, M.D., (520) 323-3110, janeorientmd@gmail.com 

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