The charges against Maine pain management and addiction specialist Dr. Merideth Norris by the federal government have resulted in an extreme and immediate chilling effect upon the pain community, creating an untenable situation for her patients and for every patient in the state who is reliant on opioid analgesics for pain management. Physicians are realizing that if Norris can be targeted, so too can they. Norris is a well-respected and adept practitioner who treats both substance use disorder as well as pain-generating conditions.

As a former pain patient of 17 years who found no alternative in conventional medicine than to take high doses of opioids to manage severe, intractable, life-limiting pain, I appreciate the level and quality of care Dr. Norris has provided her patients. The medical community is operating in a climate in which the overwhelming majority of pain management physicians have either abandoned patients to their illnesses, forced downward titration or refused to prescribe opioid analgesics altogether; not because their patients were unsafe but because physicians are justifiably fearful of prosecution for responsibly practicing medicine.

When the federal government polices prescribing practices, pain patients become more disabled and die. They lose their ability to be caregivers, and they lose their lives in measures. They die of the complications associated with untreated pain and forced downward titrations, they die by suicide and they die of overdoses as they turn to street drugs. We need to retain access to these pain-relieving medications or we condemn people to their illnesses.

Kelly Merrill

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