Senator’s Letter Ignores Constituent’s Chronic Pain

By Pat Anson, Editor

Pain News Network received hundreds of comments and emails from readers responding to the open letter we published from Charles Malinowski, a 59-year old California man who suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and other chronic pain conditions.

Malinowski is no longer able to obtain opioid medication and blames the CDC opioid guidelines for his “unspeakable and crippling pain.”

CHARLES MALINOWSKI

CHARLES MALINOWSKI

“Within 60 days I expect that the CDC will have effectively killed me. I honestly don't see myself being able to tolerate the pain any longer than that,” Malinowski wrote in his letter. “Congress, in going along with this blindly, will be explicitly complicit in this negligent homicide - or homicide by depraved indifference, take your pick.”

Malinowski’s letter to Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) hit home with many readers, who say they’ve been abandoned by doctors who are fearful of prescribing opioid medication.  

“You are correct in saying the CDC is in effect murdering us. I too suffer from chronic pain and am unable to obtain pain meds from a doctor due to CDC guidelines,” wrote one reader.

“I just read your letter and cried all the way through it. My son in law will turn 50 this month and has been living with RSD for over 8 years. His story is a carbon copy of yours. Since the change in his meds about a month ago, (he) is now showing signs of heart trouble,” wrote Jo Ellen.

“Charles you are not alone and this attack on pain patients is affecting every pain patient nationwide,” wrote Pam. “This is terrorism at its finest folks. How many more pain patients will die due to a fictitious opioid epidemic?”

“I’m stuck in bed suffering inhuman pain 24-7 days a week. I’m lucky I have sanity now to write this. For 17 years I was under the watchful eye of a very educated doctor. Now abandoned by all in the medical field,” wrote Christine.

“This exact thing happened to my husband. He unfortunately passed away from a heart attack 6 months later,” wrote Sharon. “I pray your letter falls into the correct place to save your life and many others that are now in the same situation.”

And what about Sen. Harris, who Malinowski wrote his letter to?

She sent him a form letter that completely ignored his severe pain and life-threatening situation. It focused instead on combating opioid abuse and treating addiction.

“Thank you for reaching out to me to express your concern about the opioid crisis,” Sen. Harris wrote. “This administration and Congress must treat opioid abuse as a public health crisis. We need more funding to combat the opioid epidemic that is threatening millions.”

Malinowski replied to Sen. Harris with a second letter.

“I was very disappointed to discover that your response to me was an apparent boilerplate letter about continuing the already out-of-control hysteria over the so-called opioid epidemic,” Malinowski wrote. “My letter had nothing to do with controlling the illicit dispersal of opioids.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA)

"My letter was about the new CDC opioids guidelines being a literal death sentence for people like me. This is a literal death sentence because medication we depend upon is being withheld from us in a grossly and medically irresponsible manner. How you could have completely missed the blatantly obvious topic of my letter and responded so completely off-topic is simply beyond me. I think your response was shamefully ignorant and completely irresponsible.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve heard from patients who wrote to their senator or congressman about the poor state of their pain care and gotten a form letter in response about the “opioid epidemic.” Which is no reason to stop trying or holding politicians accountable.  

“I want to hear from you. Contact me,” Sen. Harris says on her homepage. 

PNN tried to contact you, Sen. Harris. We emailed, called and left messages at your offices in Washington and Los Angeles several times in the last two weeks. Not only were we unable to speak to anyone on your staff, we couldn't even get someone to answer your phone. And we have yet to get a reply.

Neither has Charles Malinowski.  

(Update: On January 26, I finally received a reply from Sen. Harris.  But her emailed letter was yet another misdirected form letter. It thanked me for reaching out "to share your views opposing abortion."   

An Open Letter to My Senator: CDC Has Killed Me

(Editor’s Note: Charles Malinowski is a 59-year old Paso Robles, California man who lives with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), degenerative disc disease, ankylosing spondylitis, spinal stenosis and other chronic pain conditions.  He recently wrote this open letter to U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). We thought his letter worth sharing with PNN readers.)

Dear Senator Harris,

The CDC has killed me!

Let me repeat that: The CDC has killed me!

I have a severe neurological condition that causes me unspeakable and crippling pain. Pain medication is literally the only thing keeping me alive. But with the issuance of the CDC’s short sighted, so-called voluntary opioid prescribing guidelines -- which are being rammed down the throats of medical providers -- my pain management doctor has cut me off of opiates.

For the last 10 years, I have been subjected to nearly every type of physical therapy, medical treatment and medication applicable to my affliction. The one and only thing that has ever had any demonstrable benefit in even temporarily suppressing my pain to a tolerable level has, unfortunately, been opiates.

In early October, I was told that I would have to stop taking either the oral opiates or the intrathecal opiates, as it was now illegal for a person to receive two different types of opiates via two different delivery methods concurrently. This was a major problem, as even with both oral and intrathecal opiates, my pain was severely under-managed to the point where I was almost completely bedridden. I left the house only to go to doctor's appointments.

When I was told that my pain management regimen - specifically the opiates - was going to be cut in half, even though my pain was already grossly under-managed, I spoke out about this.

CHARLES MALINOWSKI

CHARLES MALINOWSKI

As a result, not only was I cut off from the oral opiates, I got kicked out of the pain management practice where I have been a patient for more than seven years. The doctor said he didn't want to risk his license - but was perfectly willing to risk my life - over the CDC opioid guidelines.  These guidelines are supposed to be voluntary and are not supposed to take desperately needed pain medication away from legitimate chronic pain sufferers such as myself.

I expect that within 60 days, I will be dead from either heart failure or a stroke due to my body's inability to cope with the stress of the unrelenting pain. My neuropsychologist, who has been treating me for nearly 10 years, has consistently rated my level of pain as moderate to extreme, even while being medicated with both oral and intrathecal opiates, which I am now denied.

I'm not dead yet, but within 60 days I expect that the CDC will have effectively killed me. I honestly don't see myself being able to tolerate the pain any longer than that.

Congress, in going along with this blindly, will be explicitly complicit in this negligent homicide - or homicide by depraved indifference, take your pick - of one Charles James Malinowski, that being myself.

I would like to thank you, Senator, and all the rest of your colleagues for murdering me.

To help ease your conscience, it is not just me that Congress is complicit in murdering, but thousands, possibly tens of thousands of people in like positions.

Sincerely,

Charles Malinowski

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Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us. Send them to editor@painnewsnetwork.org

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.