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News & Press: Pain Policy

WV Cities Sue Over Pain Management Standards—But What Do Those Standards Really Mean?

Monday, November 6, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Katie Duensing, J.D.
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Last week, four cities in West Virginia filed a class-action lawsuit against the Joint Commission (JC), a non-profit organization that accredits more than 21,000 hospitals and other healthcare organizations across the United States. The lawsuit alleges that the JC’s 2001 pain management standards “grossly misrepresented the addictive qualities of opioids”, and that hospitals that treated patients had to follow the pain standards to stay accredited—but is that really the whole story?

While the JC standards do require health institutions to evaluate, treat, and reassess pain, they do not require that this be done in any particular way or with any particular treatment. The problem doesn’t rest with the standards themselves, but rather, with health care systems that grossly oversimplified those standards—for example, blindly administering opioids to patients who report pain scores that are a five or higher on a scale of 0-10.

To read more about the TJ standards, see Is Pain Really a 5th Vital Sign? And Should It Be?