Make the pain go away

First I’d like to introduce myself.  I’m Karen Donovan and work with David Williams at MedPharma Partners since its inception.  In fact, David and I first started working together almost 17 years ago at LEK Consulting.

I wonder if any of you noticed the article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal titled “Just a Spoonful of Sugar…”.  It stuck out for me personally as my son has been sick at home over the past few days and sometimes has a hard time taking his medicine.  The WSJ article focuses on pain management techniques for infants including sugar water, numbing cream, and even breastfeeding.  The author’s choice of a title was particularly timely for me as we just watched Mary Poppins last week.  It was great when the children had been out playing in the rain and caught a cold, and Julie Andrews sang that song to get the children to take their medicine.  It’s a great song, and we’ve all been singing it for days after.

Pain management for otherwise healthy infants is one thing, but pain management for terminally-ill patients is an entirely different story.  I dealt with pain management most prominently while I worked at VITAS, the nation’s largest hospice company, during the mid-1990s.  Pain management or palliative care is one of the central tenets of hospice – focusing not just on the physical dimension but also the spiritual and psychosocial dimensions as well.  Its holistic approach in helping terminally-ill patients die with dignity emphasizes quality not quantity of life.  Hospice doesn’t change the inevitable, but instead makes it a little easier and sweeter for not just the patient but the family as well.  It’s not exactly what the play or movie had in mind, but I suppose it’s a different type of “spoonful of sugar.” 

April 4, 2007

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