Michael Hilliker: Physicians forgetting the oath they took

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.

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 's picture

when i was pregnant i had to

when i was pregnant i had to pee in a cup at every appointment, i didn't cry about it, it's just part of treatment.
if you want to be mad at someone, be angry at the drug addicts that hid behind your wife and her father. they rely on your knee-jerk emotional reaction to protect them. "don't treat my wife like a criminal", how would the docs know that she wasn't? because you said so? welcome to maine where the greatest, most wonderful people sell their prescriptions on the street, and those who pay for those meds are sick of it. get used to it or move on, either way quit your whining.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Michael Hilliker: Physicians forgetting the oath they took

Mike and wifey ? 12.11.25 14:00 hst ?
i believe that no one is forgetting anything . Selective memory is a no - no
No body is compelling you or anyone to do anything like pee in a cup that you don't want to do . Just say no . In the military we had to do it , correct ? R A n d o mL y . Don't ask don't tell
The oath is taken to not harm anyone . It is to help you . Don't read too much in to it . Anyone can check themselves in or out of St. Mary's or CMMC at most anytime , from what i hear . These are stellar instituions . You lucky to have such fine care in the twin cities
The same goes for TogusVA , having worked there . Most patients there are voluntary
In your area i would recommend Dr. Stephen Sokol as a physician , if he is still accepting patients
h t h , /s , Dr. Dosh , Hawai'i , former VA Togus employee
http://www.point2homes.com/listingsearch/ <- not an endorsement of real estate or their agents

 's picture

Stand your ground

Thank you, Michael Hilliker, for sharing your experience. Any doctor who would treat a patient the way your wife was treated shouldn't be practicing medicine--and unfortunately the doctor probably does not care about the Hippocratic ideals you quote. Too many Maine doctors today are less interested in the needs of their patients than in placating the various agencies that put pressure on them. I hope you and your wife will find a caring doctor; I know it is hard. But there's no point in wasting time, money, and nervous energy on the kind of doctor that you ran up against.

 's picture

ya your right. doctors should

ya your right. doctors should just write prescriptions for anything anyone wants when they want it because they say that they need it. and if those meds end up on the street, well, who really knows how they get there? we should show compassion by feeding addictions and even worsening them because life is hard and unfair. lets just turn our heads and close our eyes and believe that every person going in is the greatest person on the planet and would never abuse anything and are just so in need.
while not every patient is a criminal, those who do abuse the system have to be stopped so that we can continue care for those who need it. we can't keep paying for meds just for people to sell them on the street, those meds need to go to those who need them. and yes, i have had to pee in a cup because of a medication i was on and had to sign the paperwork. i just didn't take it personally because i had nothing to hide.

 's picture

Put the blame where it belongs

Allisa, you're pouring out a lot of sarcastic stuff without any basis that I can see in what anyone has written here. I don't know whom you are mad at, or why, but I don't recognize the existence of any "we" that fits your use of that pronoun here. I'm not paying for anyone's meds to be sold on the street: this is in your head, I think.

You say, "those meds need to go to those who need them." Are you implying that if someone abuses their prescription drugs there won't be enough left for those who need them? So far as I know there is no shortage whatsoever of the substances called "controlled." We're not running out of them. It's just been made very difficult to get them.

Could the case be that although you say you don't mind peeing in a cup to get your medication you actually do resent it but want to blame someone other than the doctor or the state? If that's your problem I think you should face the fact that it isn't drug abusers that are making you do this. The doctor, and whatever agency the doctor is trying to placate are making you do it, along with your own choice to go along to avoid conflict. Some of us prefer to retain our self-respect and put in our influence towards doctors' generally treating patients with respect.

Also, the particular drug that Hilliker's wife needed was probably Dalmane, which is not sold on the street that I ever knew.


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