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Jul 03 2009

In Defense of Demerol; or, Why Woomeisters Shouldn’t Jump the Gun

Michael Jackson dies, and the next thing you know, everybody’s speculating that Demerol did the deed. Which leads whackjobs to froth at the mouth over Big Pharma’s complicity in his death, and Orac to deliver a spanking:

Actually, it’s nowhere near certain that this is what happened. In fact, it’s highly unlikely, and, as we all know, Jackson’s doctor ultimately did turn up and cooperate with authorities. Still, I myself did wonder about reports that Michael Jackson was being injected with intramuscular Demerol. It’s something we used to do for pain commonly when I was a resident, but Demerol went out of favor, at least in surgical patients, a long time ago, mainly because it has a lot of side effects, including hallucinations, seizures, and arrhythmias, among others. It’s possible that a mixture of prescription drugs could have triggered Jackson’s cardiac arrest. However, even if Demerol were the cause of Jackson’s death, it would be nothing more than an indication how easily some physicians can enable celebrity drug addicts, not that the pharmaceutical industry caused Jackson’s death.

Now, Demerol’s no daisy. It’s a dangerous drug that must be used wisely. But I’ll tell you something: it’s my favorite painkiller on the entire planet, and so I feel I have to say a word in its defense. Administered sparingly by competent doctors for the treatment of agonizing pain, it’s great stuff. Demerol is a delight when you’re suffering a kidney stone. I know this from experience. One minute, wanting to reach for the nearest scalpel to forcibly remove the offending kidney, but too sick and twisted up with intolerable pain to reach one: the next, sitting up in bed happily reading a book while said kidney stone finishes passing. And for me, it didn’t have the side effects that morphine does.

So look, it’s like any drug: it won’t be a cakewalk for everybody, and abuse is a really bad idea. But used in the right setting for the right reasons with the right patient, it’s damned helpful.

Besides, before demonizing Demerol, it might be a good idea to wait for the autopsy results. For all we know, MJ might’ve been taking some super-spiffy herbal remedy that causes cardiac arrest, and my, won’t the woomeisters’ faces be red then?

Actually, probably not:

Remember one of “Orac’s laws”? Specifically, I’m referring to the observation that, whenever a believer in alternative medicine uses both scientific medicine and alt-med and gets better, inevitably she will attibute her good fortune to the alt-med, not the science-based medicine? There’s a corollary to that law, namely the reverse: If a patient using both alt-med and scientific medicine dies, it’s always the fault of the scientific medicine, particularly if chemotherapy was involved.

Because, you know, herbal remedies can never ever be harmful. Just ask these 100,508 people.

Of course, you’ll have to consult a medium to get in touch with most of them…

1 comment

  1. 1
    Efrique

    Having had morphine for a kidney stone, I'm with you on the "side effects of morphine" bit. It certainly took the pain away, but I would seriously consider just taking the pain rather than have morphine again.

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