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The Stigma of Chronic Pain: When Healthcare Providers Become Gatekeepers

Living with chronic pain is challenging enough without having to navigate the additional hurdles of stigma and discrimination, especially from those who are supposed to provide care and support. Today, I had a conversation with one of my clients that shed light on a distressing reality many individuals with chronic pain face – being placed on a "no-see" list by the other providers in the group.

Imagine being told by your trusted medical team that the rest of the practice refuses to see you, effectively cutting off access to essential medical care in an unscheduled event. This is the harsh reality my client shared with me, revealing the deep sense of abandonment and discrimination she now faces within her own healthcare system.

For my client, being banned from the other providers in the practice means more than just inconvenience; it means losing continuity in her medical care. It means facing the prospect of having to rely on urgent care facilities for basic medical attention, where providers may not have a comprehensive understanding of her complex medical history or ongoing treatment plans. It means feeling isolated and abandoned by the very people who are supposed to support her in managing her health.

The office manager's confirmation that doctors are within their rights to decline to see my client only adds insult to injury. While legally permissible, this practice raises serious ethical questions about the duty of care owed to patients, particularly those with chronic conditions who rely heavily on consistent and comprehensive medical support.

What's perhaps most distressing about this situation is the profound stigma my client experiences at the hands of her own healthcare providers. The very individuals who have taken an oath to do no harm are, knowingly or unknowingly, perpetuating the stigma surrounding chronic pain. By refusing to see my client, they are sending a message that her pain is not valid or worthy of attention, further exacerbating her distress and isolation.

As a pain coach, I've seen firsthand the devastating impact of stigma and discrimination on individuals living with chronic pain. It erodes their dignity and hope, undermines confidence in the healthcare system, and can even deter individuals from seeking the care they desperately need. It's a barrier to healing that extends far beyond physical pain, affecting every aspect of a person's life.

So, what can be done to address this systemic issue? First and foremost, we must continue to raise awareness about the realities of living with chronic pain and the stigma associated with it. Healthcare providers must undergo comprehensive training to recognize and address their own biases and prejudices, ensuring that all patients receive equitable and compassionate care.

Additionally, healthcare organizations must implement policies and procedures that prioritize the needs of patients with chronic conditions, including mechanisms for addressing complaints of discrimination or mistreatment. Open communication channels between patients and providers can also help foster trust and understanding, ensuring that patients feel heard and respected throughout their healthcare journey.

Ultimately, my client's story serves as a stark reminder that the fight against stigma and discrimination in healthcare is far from over. It's a call to action for all of us – providers, advocates, and allies – to stand up and speak out against injustice wherever we encounter it. Only then can we hope to create a healthcare system that is truly inclusive, compassionate, and supportive of all individuals, regardless of their complex medical conditions.

Contact us today to begin your journey toward a pain-free life. We specialize in assisting individuals enduring the frustration of chronic pain, guiding them to uncover their personalized MPC Pain-Free Formula™. We aim to facilitate recovery or substantially reduce pain, enabling individuals to engage in life again. Regardless of the duration of your chronic pain, let us support you in rebuilding and reclaiming a fulfilling life.

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Cynthia Austin, NBC-HWC


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