The Prince of Pain
1 | 2 |
3 | 4 |
5 | 6 |
7 | 8
was exactly the ammunition Liebeskind, a founder of the International
Association for the Study of Pain and the American Pain Society,
had been waiting decades for. Finally, he could challenge conventional
treatment of pain. "He could now make more aggressive arguments,"
says science historian Marcia Meldrum. "He could say to doctors,
‘You can dose patients with antibiotics until the cows come home,
but insistent pain is dangerous and may counteract all your efforts.'"
Soon after, the American Pain Society organized dozens of seminars
on undertreatment, and the early '90s saw the opening of the first
wave of pain clinics, multidisciplinary centers with physiologists
and anesthesiologists, even acupuncturists. Liebeskind's campaign
dovetailed nicely with Norman Cousin's message that mood, influenced
by pain as well as other factors, could affect the course of disease.
For a while, pain treatment became a hot topic in the mainstream
press, with articles written on, for instance, cancer pain and arthritis.
students of Liebeskind's, including Page, Mayer and Akil, now hold
influential positions. And there is one woman, a nurse, who wrote
recently of treating a man who was in agony, suicidal, dying of
lung cancer. "What I learned in John's classes gave me the confidence
to ask the medical personnel whether the man could have more pain
medication without threatening his health and safety," she recounts.
"As it turned out, they realized he was being undertreated. They
increased the dosage to where the man said he was comfortable. A
few days later when I saw him again, he was not nearly as preoccupied
with killing himself. He was even smiling and joking."
the early '90s, the scrutiny of pain therapy has somewhat cooled.
"It's nowhere near where we think it should be," says Gayle Page,
"but there are pockets where doctors understand and many pain clinics."
And there are the irrefutable data, the sum of a lifetime of Liebeskind's
humanist vision. During that early morning walk several springs
ago, when his wife and son drove up bearing great news, Liebeskind
chose not to get into the car. He sent his beloved messengers home
and decided to press on alone.
continues west on Pico, past the Crown Car Wash and St. Timothy's,
then turned left on Patricia, around the driving range, and on past
the early-bird golfers, now visible through the shaggy eucalyptus
along the back nine. He strolled through the wet coolness there,
the scientist and crusader and father, walking for a while in his
own rich company. With the sun about to break through the cloud
cover, John Liebeskind, a fellow on a happy morning walk, a man
of good works and devoted friends, a newly minted member of the
National Academy of Sciences, felt no pain
writer Ben Carey writes frequently on the subject of science.