Friday, October 29, 2010

Woman fired for taking prescribed drug??

     This post will ask many more questions than it answers but we have to start somewhere. Here's the NY Times article on a Tennessee woman fired after 22 years of employment when she tested positive for opiates during a company drug screening. Her employer, Dura Automotive, a automobile parts and driver systems facility, ramped up their testing to include various prescription drugs including hydrocodone.

Fired for using prescription drugs
     Job loss, it seems to me, is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this story which hopefully will begin to shed some light on the larger issues of patient/physician relationships, privacy concerns, the outrageous behavior of pharmaceutical companies, and most important our mental, emotional and physical well-being. Everything about what happened to this woman is going to point back to her. Was she capable of doing her job safely? Why was she taking the medication? Was she abusing the drug? And ... perhaps the pinnacle low-point, (if there is such a thing), in one letter to the editor responding to the news of this woman's firing, a reader said, "not to be completely unsympathetic, but maybe she wouldn't need back pain medication if she lost some weight..."  Unfortunately, this response is not only unsympathetic but it also demonstrates both the complete absence of sensitivity and the state of misinformation many of us live with as related to this subject.

     Sue Bates, on of those fired from Dura, was on target when she said of others that lost their jobs with her, "If the medicine they’re taking is not good for them or the workplace, then there should be some sort of program where they can teach us how that affects you or see if something else can be worked out ... But that was not an option for us.” Is this not a matter that requires attention with a focus on education as opposed to 
reprimand? We have an economy that is screaming with unemployment and we are going to contribute to the problem instead of pursuing a solution?

     Certainly, every company should strive for a safe and healthful workplace. Yes, liability concerns and escalating insurance costs must be addressed. However, when do we put a hold on corporate rhetoric and recognize our humanity? Even if you draw a hard line when it comes to doing the right thing vs. profit/loss, the bottom line everyone is so worried about will most certainly come out better when we look for solutions instead of settling for blame. Where are the pharmaceutical companies with their share of the clean-up costs? Their products are wreaking havoc on the lives of far too many. Prescription drug use over the past 10 years has been consistently on the rise.  Where are the doctors when it comes time to wean the patient from analgesics? Where is the education for patients before they even pop open that first bottle of pills?

     We have a lot of work to do on this issue and taking someone's job seems to be a direction with very little merit.

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