Let’s Get the Facts First

Guest View article on pain medicine & the opioid epidemic by Dr. Paul T. Davis in the The Courier (Findlay, OH), November 5, 2019, A4.

A moving & humane argument concerning medicare and opioid prescriptions*


This is a thumbnail photo of Dr. Davis's essay, published in 'The Courier' of Findlay, OH.

Printable PDF

There is no question that every reasonable and effective method to stop the opioid epidemic should be investigated, and if proven effective, implemented. The horrors and wrecked lives this epidemic have caused are all too real to many people of all ages.

However, we must remember that the opioid epidemic was primarily caused by prescribing these medicines for those with chronic pain not caused by cancer.

In the “Other View” op ed published on Nov 2, 2019, Senators Shelley Capito and Jeanne Shaheen are featured claiming that Medicare encourages over-prescribing of opioids. They are correct in that there have been articles published showing that the number of prescriptions in the Medicare population is rising.

They are also correct that their publicizing this problem has great “optics” and could help their political careers.

However, what is missing from the reports is very important. How many of these prescriptions were written for treatment of cancer pain?

In the 1970’s I watched my friend die in agony with pancreatic cancer because his doctors were afraid of losing their licenses if they gave him adequate pain medicine. They would not treat his pain because of the fear they would addict him.

In his last six weeks of life, he never slept more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time because of the severe, unrelenting pain.

Fast forward to the early part of this century when I had to watch another friend suffer needlessly. He had multiple myeloma, a cancer that causes severe bone pain all over the body. He was getting adequate amounts of pain medicine until well-meaning politicians crafted laws that restricted access to these medicines. It affected everyone, regardless of legitimate need.

These laws did little to curb the over-prescribing of opioids judging by how bad the epidemic got even after they were passed.

But what it did do what make it very difficult for him to get the pain medicine he needed. Anything less than a narcotic, in a big dose was totally worthless.

This is a plea for more information before this gets worse. Medicare-age patients are the most likely to have cancer, and treatment of cancer pain has been a great medical victory in the last 40 years.

Well-meaning laws enacted without considering the collateral damage that could be done to those with a true need would be a horrible tragedy. Or should I say, make a horrible tragedy even worse than it is for the cancer-patients in need.

By all means make it less financially rewarding for inappropriately prescribing opioids for non-cancer pain, but it is too easy to craft a bad policy than it is to fix it later.

We as a society must protect those in the greatest need.

We must ensure that the right drugs are available to the right patients in a timely manner, while keeping harmful treatments of any kind away from everyone.

Get the facts before writing a bad law.

Dr. Paul T. Davis

Dr. Paul T. Davis.

Dr. Paul T. Davis of Findlay, OH, is a retired family physician and former Program Director of the University of Findlay’s Physician Assistant Master’s program. See also the coverage on NPR.org of Dr. Davis and his daughter, Liz Moreno, after she received a bill calling for payment of $17,850 for a urine test.


* I (Eric Thomas Weber) received and read a scan of the printed version of this article in early November and was deeply moved. Wanting to share it, I visitedThe Courier’s’ Web site, and then reached out to them when I could not find it there. I learned that they do not post the essays of guest columnists online, and so I requested permission to share the essay here. As I have lived in Mississippi and presently now live in Kentucky, two states deeply affected by drug addiction, I believe it all the more important that our lawmakers and policymakers think carefully and humanely about the kinds of rules that they establish concerning opioids.

This article is republished here with the permission of the author and of the staff of The Courier of Findlay, Ohio. 

Trump’s Blind Faith in Tax Cuts Won’t Work, Just Look at the Evidence

Piece originally published in The Herald Leader, October 13, 2016.

Thumbnail photo of my piece in the Herald Leader, titled, 'Trump's Blind Faith in Tax Cuts Won't Work, Just Look at the Evidence.' The link leads to the article on the Herald Leader's site.

After watching the first Presidential debate, I was struck by how little Donald Trump had to offer in terms of actual policy proposals. He suggested renegotiating trade deals, but that’s not something he can unilaterally do. I’m skeptical. The things government can do on its own, among his recommendations, included lowering taxes for the wealthy and for corporations. It’s his panacea. It’s also something that in many cases has already been shown not to work.

Of course, there can be too much. But for a man proud of paying no taxes, it’s all the more absurd to suggest that taxes are too high on him. Here’s my piece, covering what I take to be the four big mistakes in Donald Trump’s free market fundamentalism.

End Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

First published in The Herald Leader (Lexington, KY), Sunday, 9/25/16, 4-5C.

Logo of the Lexington Herald-Leader.On September 4th, The Herald Leader of Lexington, KY, published an in-depth news article on the subject of corporal punishment in public schools. It was still early in the school year, which makes such topics timely. I had written a draft to send them on the subject, but the news article offered many specifics to address in considering the kinds of justifications people raise for continuing corporal punishment in public schools.

Here is the news article to which I was responding, titled “The Paddle Is Still Wielded in Kentucky Schools, but in Declining Numbers.” The piece covers quite an array of reasons people give for the continued practice of corporal punishment. I believe philosophers have a lot to offer when it comes to analyzing arguments, clarifying concerns, and cataloguing reasons for or against a matter. So, I updated my initial draft for the Herald Leader and it came out yesterday in the Sunday issue.

Photo of the header of my op-ed on corporal punishment. Clicking on the link in the image takes you to the full scan of the printed article, available on Academia.edu.

My original title was “End Corporal Punishment in Schools,” but the editors found one of the lines from the piece stronger. So in print and online, the op-ed is titled “Prisoners Better Protected from Corporal Punishment than Students.” That link takes you to the HTML version of the piece online. I’ve also scanned in the printed version which you can view on Academia.edu here or by clicking the image here above.

Interview on Science & Religion in The Tehran Times

This piece was originally published on August 1, 2016, pages 1 and 9.

It’s an honor and a pleasure to be interviewed for The Tehran Times. I am especially grateful that the put the very philosophical interview I gave on the front page of the newspaper. The Tehran Times is Iran’s major English language newspaper. I have had the opportunity to talk quite a few times about philosophy and democracy. Here’s photo of the interview, which links to the full Adobe PDF file for the day’s newspaper (August 1st, 2016). My piece is on pages 1 and 9:

This is a photo of a cut out of the front page interview I gave for The Tehran Times on science and religion.

I got a lot of positive feedback about this piece, as well as some interesting comments and questions on Facebook. In case you want to see those, here’s the post – sorry for the repeat image. I’ve not embedded a Facebook post on this site before, so here’s a test:

I’m honored to see my piece on the front page of the Tehran Times again. How cool is that? (See pgs 1 & 9): http://media.mehrnews.com/d/2016/07/31/0/2156798.pdf
Posted by Eric Thomas Weber, author on Sunday, July 31, 2016

 

If you’ve not yet connected with me on Facebook, “like” my author page, and if you’re a tweeter, following me @EricTWeber.

“Correcting Political Correctness”

Published in "The Philosophers' Magazine," issue 72, 1st Quarter 2016, 113-114.

I had the pleasure of receiving a request to write for The Philosophers’ Magazine, which was planning an issue on “50 New Ideas.” My proposal was to revisit and rethink an old idea that people have been criticizing quite a lot lately: political correctness. Click here or on the photo of the piece here to open a PDF of my article:

Thumbnail photo of my piece in The Philosophers' Magazine, with a link to the PDF file.

Cover of The Philosophers' Magazine, issue 72, 1st Quarter 2016.This piece is a short, op-ed snippet of the larger project I’m working on, called A Culture of Justice. It’s an example that shows clearly how and why culture matters for policy, such as in trademark registration, free speech, and the cultural responsibilities of leadership and symbolism. Check it out.

If you enjoyed the piece, connect with me by “liking” my Facebook author page and “following” me on Twitter.

Tehran Times Front Page on ‘Uniting MS’

Check out the front page of February 28th’s Tehran Times. I gave an interview on Uniting Mississippi and was honored with some pretty cool real estate in the paper. Here’s an image of the cover and below that I’ve got links for a clipped PDF of the interview and to the regular text version on their site:

Cover pic of the front page of the Tehran Times, featuring an interview on 'Uniting Mississippi.'

Click on the image above to read a PDF of the piece, or click here. You can also read it online here.

You can learn more about the book here and find it for sale online here.

Follow me on Twitter @EricTWeber and “like” my Facebook author page @EricThomasWeberAuthor.

Reciprocal Goodwill Is Answer to Flag Issue

My latest Clarion Ledger piece, published December 8, 2015, 8A.

Photo of the printed version of the article.

Thumbnail photo of the Clarion Ledger logo, which if you click will take you to the Clarion Ledger's site where you can read the full article.My latest piece in the Clarion Ledger draws on Aristotle’s insights about friendship, which he called acknowledged reciprocal goodwill. We sure need more of that in Mississippi.

Click here or on the Clarion Ledger logo on the right to read the piece on their Web site.

You can also see a scan of the printed piece on Academia.edu.

“Trump’s slogans not enough to win”

Interview with Javad Heiran-Nia in Tehran Times, November 1, 2015, 1 & 11.

Front page of the Tehran Times, November 1, 2015. I have again had the great opportunity to give an interview for reporter Javad Hieran-Nia of The Tehran Times, Iran’s major English-language newspaper. I feel honored to have my interview again land the first page of the paper. The image on right is of the front page, but is also a link to a printable Adobe PDF version of the piece, which I edited onto one page. You can alternatively click here or on the title of the piece below for the same linked file.

The piece is titled “Trump’s popular slogans will not be
enough to win him the primary election: Weber,” The Tehran Times, November 1, 2015, pages 1 & 11.

The interview is available on paper’s site here.

The Nonsense of Beating Sense into Kids

Eric Thomas Weber, first published September 1, 2015 in The Prindle Post.

The start of another academic year is cause to reflect on the aims of education and the fact that 19 states in the U.S. still use corporal punishment in public schools. Many have yet to learn the counterproductive and harmful effects of disciplining kids with violence. Nowhere is the mistake more troubling than in our public schools.

Image of a paddle in a traditional school classroom.

‘The board of education’ by Wesley Fryer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

I have argued elsewhere against school corporal punishment on grounds of the right to security of person and given the Platonic warning that “nothing taught by force stays in the soul.” The aims of education offer a further, crucial reason why we ought to end the use of corporal punishment in public schools.

Photo of John Dewey.What is school for? Somewhere at the heart of the answer should be the idea of educating people to be critical thinkers. John Dewey once argued that such a goal is implicit in the “supreme intellectual obligation.” That obligation calls for empowering all citizens with the scientific attitudes and intellectual habits of mind necessary to appreciate wisdom and to put it to use. Expert scientists must push the envelope of knowledge, but if intellectuals are to benefit humanity, the masses of people need to be sufficiently critical thinkers to benefit from scientific innovations.

Critical thinking involves the development of a skeptical attitude, one which expects or hopes to uncover justification or evidence. It appreciates well-founded authorities, understanding authority as a relationship of trust based on good reasons for it. For schools to cultivate critical thinking in young people, kids need to be comfortable questioning their teachers, administrators, and parents. In public schools, we need safe environments in which intellects are allowed and enabled to experiment, to be creative, and to learn whether and why some authorities are warranted, when they are.

Corporal punishment in public schools inhibits the cultivation of critical thinking. It teaches one that a justifiable means to one’s ends is violence. It impedes the development of “scientific attitudes and intellectual habits of mind.” A kid is understandably less inclined to question an authority that beats him or her, especially with the sanction of public policy.

Photo of the map Southern Echo created of Mississippi counties and their use of corporal punishment in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.

Click image for a PDF.

Consider the kind of environment created in 2009-2010 in the South Panola School District in Mississippi, where corporal punishment was recorded 2,572 times in a 180-day school year. That averages out to the use of physical violence every 20-30 minutes each day. Such environments impede the development of critical thinking, rather than encouraging it.

What do young people learn when they are struck? It is true that studies show an immediate though very short-lived change in young people’s behavior after corporal punishment. They also show, however, that students who are subjected to violence do not develop better long-term habits. In fact, school- and in-home corporal punishments are associated with higher levels ofdepression, anxiety, drug use, crime, and other unfortunate consequences, as well as mental disorders. In school settings, then, corporal punishment fails to teach kids what it purports and is doing them educational harm.

The common refrain heard in response is that if you spare the rod, you’ll spoil the child. A priest pointed out to me, however, that this is a reference to the shepherd’s rod. Shepherds steer and redirect sheep with a tap or nudge of the rod. A tap or a push gives redirection and disciplines a herd. A beating does not. It makes the animal flee when it can get away.

Dictionary listing for "Dropout."In poor southern states still using corporal punishment, when young people reach the age at which they can leave school, flocks of them do.

Rather than teaching young people not to question authorities, we should strive to cultivate understanding of scientific and moral authority. We can teach respect for truth, good reasoning, good faith, and good will. Teaching kids that if they go out of line they will be struck tells them that if they think differently, they will be met with pain and shown the extent to which they are unsuited for education.

We can do better. There are nonviolent and effective forms of discipline. We should be teaching kids to explore ideas, to test authorities for the sake of learning, and to feel welcome and safe in educational environments. Corporal punishment has the opposite effects. Our schools could and should inspire and empower kids, nurturing them as critical thinkers. Those are aims to which meaningful education is rightly directed. A vital step forward must be, therefore, to abolish corporal punishment in our public schools.

Dr. Eric Thomas Weber is associate professor of Public Policy Leadership at the University of Mississippi and author of Uniting Mississippi (2015) and A Culture of Justice (in progress). He is representing only his own point of view. Follow him on Twitter @erictweber and connect on Facebook.

The logo of the Prindle Post, a publication of the Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University, Greencastle, IN.See the original article in The Prindle Post. Reprinted here with permission.

Mr. Bryant, Take Down the Flag

or "Governor, Take Down This Flag," in The Clarion Ledger, September 20, 2015, 2C.

Thumbnail photo of the Clarion Ledger logo, which if you click will take you to the Clarion Ledger's site where you can read the full article.My piece, “Mr. Bryant, Take Down the Flag,” came out in The Clarion Ledger this morning. In the printed version, the title is “Governor, Take Down this Flag.” For the next week or two, please head to the electronic version of the piece on the newspaper’s site. You can download and print a PDF of the article by clicking on the image of the printed version.

This is a photo of my op-ed. The link, when you click on the image, takes you to an Adobe PDF version of the published piece, with OCR.

I’ll soon post the full article on my site. For now, be sure to check out my blogpost arguing that “Racism Defies the Greatest Commandment.”