After reading the Sun Journal story (Nov. 18) "Doctors ask for random drug testing," I would like to relay my personal experience with Maine doctors’ approach to treating their patients as if they are all drug addicts.
My wife and I moved back to Maine a few months ago to care for my wife’s father, a Vietnam veteran who was dying of multiple forms of cancer that officials from the Veterans Administration said was from his exposure to Agent Orange. My wife took use of the Family and Medical Leave Act until the short job protection it provides expired, leaving her with no medical coverage or job in order to care for her dying father.
I sold my business in Arizona (we had moved there four years ago) to come join her in caring for him as we have been together since the age of 15. I couldn’t leave her to handle that tragedy alone; we had faced the world together for 27 years.
My wife, a native of Auburn, holds two college degrees, both earned summa cum laude, and she did it while raising our three children — our first-born while we were only 17. She is an impressive woman, by any standard.
The medications her previous doctors had prescribed her, two of them prescribed dating back almost 20 years to our many years in Maine and New Hampshire, were running out and she needed refills. None of her three prescriptions are opiates or, for that matter, painkillers of any kind. But one of them is still classified as a controlled substance used for sleep.
I dropped her off for her appointment and ran a few quick errands. When I returned, she emerged about 10 minutes later in tears. She began to explain to me that the nurse and then two doctors who had been brought in treated her as if she were a common criminal.
They questioned her need for her medications, accusing her of potential drug abuse for a medication that is prescribed for sleep.
They told her they wouldn’t refill her prescriptions — any of them — unless she would sign one of these wretched drug testing agreements and urinate for them like some parolee.
They told her that she would be required to submit her pills for count in order to be treated and for the office to prescribe non-opiate medications she had been taking for many years with no problems.
My blood boiled. My beautiful, smart, educated, wife and soul mate of 27 years was made to feel like some dirty, drug-addicted junkie who had wandered in off the street looking for a fix.
Someday, that could be your mother or father, son or daughter they treat so poorly.
That is the consequence of doctors and hospitals treating all patients as if they are criminals — presumed guilty of an offense when they walk through their physicians' doors seeking help.
The violation is inexcusable. Doctors are turning into de facto DEA agents, grilling their patients as if they are perps pulled into an interrogation room. It is just shameful.
Doctors who simply fall in line with this abusive policy directive need to re-examine why they became healers. Perhaps they have chosen the wrong profession.
In the end, they told my wife they needed to speak with her original doctors to confirm the prescriptions. No problem with that, she told them, but it took them two months.
She suffered at the hands of those doctors and the insane policy for two months without her medications, all while watching her father waste away from the cancer he’d acquired while fighting for this great nation.
Her father passed away during all of that nonsense. My wife was forced to endure the death of her father while being denied proper medical care, all because of a policy that assumes every patient walking through the door is a criminal.
That is absolutely disgraceful.
How does a doctor in good conscience let this happen to a patient?
I understand that physicians are feeling the pressure from law enforcement, but that crosses a serious line between the doctors we seek help from and the patients who put their trust in them.
These ideals from the Hippocratic Oath:
— “That into whatever house I shall enter, it shall be for the good of the sick.”
—“That above all else I will serve the highest interests of my patients through the practice of my science and my art.”
—“That I will be an advocate for patients in need and strive for justice in the care of the sick.”
I ask, was that, in any way, justice for my wife?
There is another side to the story that was in the Sun Journal, and it has serious, real-world consequences.
Someone needs to tell it.
Michael D. Hilliker lives in Lewiston and is the former owner/designated broker of a successful real estate and property management company.