Pain Management Bill Likely to Pass This Year

April 8, 2009

The debate over physician involvement in assisted suicide has become relatively quiet since the federal courts and the Supreme Court, in a 6 to 3 decision on January 17, 2006, upheld Oregon’s 1997 Death With Dignity Act, which allows assisted suicide under certain conditions. However, that debate gave birth to the related controversy about the management of pain.

The debate over physician involvement in assisted suicide has become relatively quiet since the federal courts and the Supreme Court, in a 6 to 3 decision on January 17, 2006, upheld Oregon’s 1997 Death With Dignity Act, which allows assisted suicide under certain conditions. However, that debate gave birth to the related controversy about the management of pain.

Enter the National Pain Care Policy Act (HR 756). That bill was passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 4 and will undoubtedly pass the full House, as it did last September by a voice vote. There was not enough time for the Senate to act on it last year. However, the bill does not appear to be controversial, so Senate passage this year appears likely.

The National Pain Care Policy Act of 2009 would:

• Authorize an Institute of Medicine conference on pain care
• Authorize a Pain Consortium at the NIH
• Provide comprehensive pain care education and training for health care professionals
• Institute a public awareness campaign on pain management
Funding would be appropriated by Congress.

The public awareness campaign could be funded with as much as $2 million for fiscal year 2010 and $4 million for each of fiscal years 2011 and 2012. That money would be used (among other things) to educate patients and families on the “adverse physical, psychological, emotional, societal, and financial consequences that can result if pain is not appropriately assessed, diagnosed, treated, or managed.”