Hastings Center Report 47 (3):36-37 (2017)

In this issue of the Hastings Center Report, Joshua Rager and Peter Schwartz reframe the justification for the use of opioid treatment agreements. Instead of documents used to define the roles and responsibilities of doctors and patients to one another in the course of opioid treatment for chronic pain and to describe the risks and benefits of therapy for the individual, OTAs are now proposed for use as “surveillance and monitoring” instruments. As such, they are specifically meant to disclose the risks of opioid therapy and to describe the other processes and tools used to monitor abuse and diversion of medications. Given the crisis of the opioid overdose and death epidemic, along with this repurposing of OTAs as disclosure documents primarily, Rager and Schwartz argue that patient consent is not needed and that OTAs should be universally applied in clinical practices. We can all agree on the big picture goal of limiting the number of opioid prescriptions in order to minimize the tragedy of opioid overdose deaths. We disagree, though, about the acceptable level of collateral damage to people in pain who fall victim to fighting the war against the so-called opioid epidemic.
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DOI 10.1002/hast.705
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