Prescriptions And Privacy

About a month ago I saw my doctor, a General Practitioner.  It was just a routine appointment, although it quickly went from routine to fascinating when he said he had been wanting to talk to me.  The result was that after two long years of debating with him my need for adequate pain medication, he finally agreed to prescribe some.

He had previously refused, in spite of acknowledging the level of pain I was experiencing from fibromyalgia, because he believed that my history of mental illness would mean that I would get addicted to the stuff and my mental health would suffer.  One of my arguments was that my mental health was suffering already as a result of the pain I was in on a daily basis.  For some reason unknown to me that argument seemed to count for nothing to him.  It seemed that he didn’t accept it and so was only prepared to let me use over-the-counter medications.  The problem with those is that they did nothing to relieve the pain, perhaps because they are designed to treat a different kind of pain.  Our argument went on over the months.  When I felt I had some fight in me I would raise the issue, but basically he was quite clear that he would never prescribe anything stronger and more appropriate.

Let me say at this point (in case you’re wondering) the easy thing to do would have been to change my doctor.  For me though, that has some difficulties related to my past experiences of doctors.  More about that in a future post… when I’m feeling brave.

In the meantime, what changed my doctor’s mind?  It seems he felt a little backed into a corner.  At an earlier appointment he had arranged for me to have some short-term counselling to deal with a specific unrelated issue that had been affecting my state of mind.  It was only to be six sessions, which always seemed too short, but it was free and it was available.  I had no other options and so I took up the offer.

I had seen the counsellor twice when I went to my doctor a month ago.  That was what my doctor wanted to talk about.  He proceeded to read out to me word-for-word something I had said to the counsellor, on my second visit, about my doctor’s refusal to treat me with pain medication.  I was totally gobsmacked to find that the counsellor was giving my doctor a written report of my counselling sessions.  This was not something I had been told about, nor had I given permission for him to share the details of my sessions with anyone.

That was the end of the counselling sessions.  I guard my privacy carefully and I expect that when speaking to a counsellor or therapist that what I say will remain confidential.  I accept that if I am at risk of hurting either myself or someone else then the counsellor may have to call in emergency services but I could never accept that my doctor needed to hear word-for-word what I said when I was no where near being in a crisis state.

Well that might have been the end of the counselling, but for some reason (he didn’t explain) my doctor didn’t appreciate what I had said to the counsellor, gave me a small lecture about “keeping secrets from him”  (really?) and then handed me a prescription for medication to treat severe pain.  Weird.  It’s like he knew he was discriminating against me and was waiting to see how long he could get away with it.

I finally had my prescription!  Yay!  The only problem is that a month on I declare it totally useless for me.  If my body is anywhere close to horizontal, the medication will put me to sleep (which is one way of dealing with pain) but it does absolutely nothing to take away the pain.  Actually if anything the pain has been worse in the past couple of weeks.  I wonder is he just giving me sugar pills (unlikely, I hope) or just a very small dose?  This coming week I will be going back to my doctor to keep fighting.  I have tried that drug but now I need another.  The fight goes on.

Gotta love doctors (and counsellors) like him.

“Life isn’t as magical here, and you’re not the only one who feels like you don’t belong, or that it’s better somewhere else. But there ARE things worth living for. And the best part is you never know what’s going to happen next.” 

― O.R. Melling, The Summer King


28 thoughts on “Prescriptions And Privacy

  1. I keep trying to comment, but for some reason, my comments cannot be posted at this time. Whatever. I’m trying again.
    Gobsmacked accurately describes my reaction when I read that your counselor had relayed confidential information to your physician.
    I wish you luck on your next visit in getting another prescription and in finding relief from the fibromyalgia pain. Not much helps that type of pain.

    1. Oh I know. I couldn’t believe it and they had this ‘nice’ little system running and thought I was totally unreasonable for objecting. As for pain relief, I know it’s really hard to find something that works. I make it more difficult by there being a lot of meds I can’t take (because of other meds).

      Not sure why you weren’t able to comment, but thanks for persisting. 🙂 Cate

  2. It took me 7 months of complaining about severe anxiety and describing worsening panic attack symptoms before my nurse practitioner would prescribe an anxiety medication with addiction potential. And this was the *good* nurse, not the rotten one I saw before (and left because they treated me like an addict.)

    I also can’t take any OTC painkillers because they’re genetically contraindicated. No doctor except the oral surgeon has ever been willing to prescribe painkillers that would be effective for severe menstrual cramps (the kind that make you pass out from the pain) because they’d be — you guessed it — potentially addictive. Even though I only wanted them for 2 days a month, a maximum of 4 or 5 doses.

    Granted, I also take controlled stimulants. I’ve wrestled with self-medicating in the past. But I’ve never actually been addicted to anything. And once they finally allowed me to take these “addictive” medications, I’ve never, ever had a moment’s trouble managing appropriate PRN use. In fact, I’m told that I don’t rely on the meds enough!

    I don’t really want to be drugged up, I just want to not suffer unnecessarily. Is that really too much to ask?

    1. Oh, and I meant to say, sister, I feel your pain! That kind of disclosure is (arguably, I guess) illegal in the US, and most providers are pretty paranoid about following the rules.

      1. Thanks DeeDee. I’m not sure if it’s actually illegal here but I’ve never heard of it happening here, although this doctor and counsellor had a system all set up to do it. Scary!

      2. We literally have to sign paperwork to see our own records or have a spouse discuss anything health-related with any provider. So it’s a big deal here, lawsuit potential and everything. There are exceptions if you’re a danger to yourself or others, of course, but they’d have to really be able to demonstrate that in order to get away with disclosure without a signed form.

    2. It certainly doesn’t seem too much to me. I wonder whether they just have too many dodgy requests for pain meds and so they have lost the ability to identify the genuine cases. Then again, I uncharitably think some of them are simply useless at their jobs. I’m glad you’ve got the meds now.

      1. Apparently opiate addiction is the big scourge in America. They’ve given them out too freely in the past and now there are a lot of people addicted, or so the story goes.

        I agree with your uncharitable conclusions. I think there’s a glaring lack of compassion. But I’m glad to have the anxiety meds now (for however long that lasts…) and though I still can’t get pain meds, I finally got treatment that addresses the cause of the pain! Amazing.

  3. That is ridiculous that your (even temporary) therapist would share your session with your GP. Totally ridiculous. But you knew that. I’m just backing you up on that one. 😀 I was lucky, early into my problems with anxiety and panic attacks, to have a doctor who saw nothing wrong with me taking Klonopin PRN. And ya kinow, I have been fortunate to have never had a doctor since who thinks it’s a big deal. I think a lot of that is that I have a therapist backing me up, saying that I need it, and sometimes, well, it’s just damn obvious. It’s that, and the fact that I have never abused the medication and generally err on the side of caution and don’t take it, even when I should. It is hard to find the right doctor, whether for physical issues or mental. I hope you come to a point where you are able to find someone that works a little harder, a little better, for you. I know that my significant other has chronic pain, and all his GP will offer is physical therapy, Naproxyn (OTC), and tell him to lose weight. I don’t know how he doesn’t rip that doctor’s head off everytime he sees him! I digress. I think it is completely unfair the way many GP’s (and even specialists) treat chronic pain, chronic illness, ad nauseum. I hope we hear a post from you soon about why it is difficult for you to change doctors. Sometimes just letting it all out, like ripping the Band-Aid off, can be very cathartic. My thoughts are with you, Rose

    1. I think it’s perfectly ok for you to ask her about confidentiality. She should have covered it when you started anyway. I hope you find that it is all ok, and certainly I think it is very rare that what I got caught by was happening. In many places it’s actually illegal for them to share anything unless you are in danger. Good luck.

      1. Interestingly, this psychologist didn’t give me the regular spiel about “what you say here is just between us unless you’re going to hurt yourself or someone else.” Maybe she figured I knew it already because she knows I’ve been in therapy forever. I will definitely ask her next time I see her. I don’t really care if she shares a little bit of information with my GP, but I like him, he’s a good guy and I sort of want to protect him, as weird as that sounds!

      2. That makes sense. Actually it was the same when I went into this counselling. I’ve had heaps of it in the past and so maybe he assumed I knew the deal. But then his deal was completely different to any counsellor or therapist I’ve seen before. Definitely worth checking out just to be sure. Good luck!

  4. John Richardson

    Hopefully, you’re a step closer to improving your condition. I feel the same as you about your discussion being reported to your doctor. But, in the long run maybe it will help. Just don’t lose your sense of humor.

  5. Jennifer Butler Basile

    Can the therapist’s license not be taken away? Total breach of confidentiality. And against the therapists’ credo.

    Yes, it ultimately got you the meds, but a bit like a backhanded compliment, no?

    1. Absolutely. I’m not actually sure what the law is here. I just knew practice was quite different to what was going on. I’ve never struck it before. I thought about fighting it but decided that right now I was just better to get out of it and concentrate on me.

      1. Jennifer Butler Basile

        Very true. That is the most important aspect of treatment after all: your overall health. Just a crazy situation.

  6. Forgive the stupid question with an obvious answer, but isn’t there a psychiatrist involved in your treatment?

    This is the second disappointing (at the least) story of medical professionals I’ve read today. I know you’ve had past trouble with doctors, and I’m sorry about all of it. Nobody deserves such treatment, least of all the good folks of the world.

    1. That’s not a stupid question, Sid. I do have a psychiatrist, although for the life of me, I can’t remember his name. But don’t worry I could get myself there. I don’t see him very often because he’s so expensive. There is a public mental health service in NZ which includes psychiatrists but they threw me out (yes, really!) about five years ago because I wasn’t responding to their treatment. So now I have to pay for my own psychiatrist. It has advantages because they tend to be better and more experienced but the cost means I only see him when really necessary.

      All that said, the medication I was referring to here is for fibromyalgia and so my regular doctor handles it (unfortunately). Again I have to pay for the specialist and can’t so have to put up with what I can get. It’s all really a bit messy but I’m trying to smile. 🙂 So much for a free health system.

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