Op-Ed Archives

By D. Bruce Foster

November 7, 2011

Questions every ER patient should ask

You're in an emergency room. You're worried. OK, maybe that's an understatement. Maybe you're terrified. This may not be the setting in which you always make your best decisions. But you won't get to take back any of the decisions you make in an ER, so you have to make the best decision you can the first time.

Assuming that you don't have an immediately apparent catastrophic illness, here are four questions you can ask your doctor that may save you time and money — and perhaps even spare you or your child one of the complications that are sometimes associated with medical care.

Foster: We must come to grips with death

Newday Foster op-ed on death

By D. Bruce Foster

November 18, 2011

I have watched many people die.

Mostly, of course, these people have been elderly. Often they are no longer able to recognize family members. They are essentially bedridden and have multi-system organ failure. As their worn-out bodies fail, they typically stop eating and drinking. This is followed by slow dehydration, kidney failure and the onset of coma. Two or three days later they breathe their last breath. It's a very peaceful and painless way to go.

Forty or 50 years ago, this was the nearly universal way to die -- at home, surrounded by loved ones keeping vigil over the deathbed and saying their last goodbyes. Such a peaceful death is essentially no longer permitted. The emphasis is toward the maximum care that medical science can offer.

Foster: Roots of our pain-pill addiction

Newsday Foster Op-Ed on Opioid Crisis

By D. Bruce Foster

November 27, 2012

The Centers for Disease Control recently issued an alarming report about the growing American public health epidemic of narcotics addiction. No foreign drug cartels are involved. The narcotics, opioids, are all perfectly legal drugs, prescribed by physicians.

"The system is awash in opioids -- dangerous drugs that got people hooked and keep them hooked," says CDC director Thomas Frieden.

Sales of hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and other opioid pain relievers have skyrocketed 400 percent in the last decade. In the state of New York, prescriptions written for the most popular street drug, oxycodone increased 82 percent between just 2007 and 2010.

Lawmakers in Albany are currently considering bills that would bolster the ability to track these prescriptions, and with good reason. This tsunami of narcotics is killing people. In 2008, the most recent year for which national figures are available, nearly 15,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses.

As an emergency physician, I've asked myself how physicians could have become bigger purveyors of addicting narcotics than the drug cartels. How, as the CDC has reported, could we have more deaths at the hand of physician-written opioid prescriptions than from heroin and cocaine?

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