By Jenifer Valley of Happy Valley, Oregon. Jenifer is a 32-year cancer survivor and describes herself as "an internationally-known cannabis breeder."
Two months after I turned 25, my new doctor - Dr. William Fletcher, Head of Surgical Oncology at OHSU - told me I had a 50% chance of surviving the next 6 months and that if I was lucky, I might get a whole year... but probably not.
And I was so relieved to finally have a chance to get treatment.
You see, for the previous four years, my 'doctor' had been denying me access to medical treatment because she was mad that I used marijuana.I knew something was seriously wrong, but she just wouldn't do anything. Despite reporting symptoms like an egg-sized tumor under my chin that was choking me and low appetite and chronic nausea every month, none of those symptoms made it into my chart: she charted "drug-seeking behavior". Instead of running thyroid tests, she ran marijuana screens and insisted that she would not treat any ailment I had until I stopped smoking marijuana. In January of 1993, I actually had to threaten her with assault to force her to chart the lumps.
But that drug-seeking behavior haunted me for years. Even though I was diagnosed with Stage 4 thyroid cancer, I was given ibuprofen for pain for the first two years of treatment. I finally got pain treatment after I pointed out to the Head of the Endocrinology Department that he was basing his treatment of HIS patient on the opinion of the moron who missed the most advanced case of thyroid cancer his hospital had ever seen - for over four years.
Last year I was involved in a Harvard study of doctor/patient relationships and I made the point that my doctor was too busy practicing drug war politics to have time to practice medicine in my exam room. Because of her drug warrior position, she violated my basic human right to access to medical care. She was my doctor, but she was my primary barrier to care. When you deny a little girl with cancer access to medical care because she smokes pot, you have officially lost the moral high-ground. It made it into the study.
I hope that Oregon will vote yes on Measure 80 this November and take a new look at our policy.
Many patients face the same barriers I faced back then. We need to really examine the effect the War on Drugs is having on the doctor-patient relationship and on patient care and outcomes. Not being able to trust your doctor will drive up the cost of care, as will having doctors not treat serious diseases in a timely manner.
Aug. 01, 2012 | |