Says Who??

Verstehen, through shared perspectives

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Yesterday I read a notice from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that caused me to sit up, read it again, and then again. You can read it yourself, at These words, this concept in the making, gave me hope that efforts to end the drug crisis in our country are finally headed in a right direction.

Why? HHS is forming a new Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force and is seeking nominations. HHS has said it is looking for diversity in its Task Force membership, not just representation from large organizations. I read this as an incredible opportunity to get people who are knowledgeable, credentialed, experienced and not bound to organizational (read political) influence, leaving them free to engage in honest dialogue with others about solutions to the “Opioid Crisis” in our nation. It seems that there is potential in this Task Force for real solutions.

The Task Force will have the following responsibilities:

(1) Determining whether there are gaps or inconsistencies in pain management best practices among federal agencies;

(2) Proposing recommendations on addressing gaps or inconsistencies;

(3) Providing the public with an opportunity to comment on any proposed recommendations; and

(4) Developing a strategy for disseminating information about best practices.

HHS is not dragging their feet in this process, either. Nominations via email are currently being accepted at  and must be received no later than close of business on Wednesday, September 27, 2017. Such a short time to decide who to nominate! To write a letter! Fortunately, I am well acquainted with the perfect candidate for this Task Force. He is so well qualified it only took a short time to prepare an email supporting his nomination, a copy of which follows:

TO: Acting Assistant Secretary: Don Wright, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services        

 RE: Nomination of JAMES PATRICK MURPHY, MD, MMM, FASAM to the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force

 Dear Secretary Wright:

 It is an honor and privilege for me to nominate Dr. James P. Murphy to be a member of this very important task force. I have carefully read your notice on the web site laying out the qualities you are looking for in the nominations, and I can think of no one better suited for this committee. His patients benefit from his ability to see them holistically; to manage their pain to the point of returning productivity using effective modalities; and to carefully monitor opiate intake and effect when it is used. The community benefits from his knowledge and willingness to offer lectures and workshops for the media, for college students, and for relevant groups working with any approach to dealing with the present opioid crisis. The medical community has also benefitted from his lectures, from his teaching pre-med students, and from his leadership as President of the Greater Louisville Medical Society in 2014 and Chairman of the Board in 2015.

Dr. Murphy’s medical career has allowed for diverse experiences, e.g., military medicine, academic medicine, hospital-based practice, private practice, business management, patient advocacy, and “organized” medicine. His training, credentials, and affiliations illustrate the multifaceted perspective he can bring to the group. He would have no conflicts of interest, as he is not beholden to any organizations that could hamper an independent and honest contribution to the Task Force. For a more complete listing of his credentials and experience, please see his résumé [which may be downloaded from] .

My own perspective is that of a former chronic pain patient, a former nurse, and a semi-retired sociology professor with one specialization in the sociology of medicine. As both a nurse and a college professor (as well as a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy Reserve for 6 years) I have dealt directly with the effects of substance abuse for more than 35 years. After all of my own experience, and working closely with Dr. Murphy in academic and clinical office settings for four years, I can say without hesitation that Dr. James P. Murphy is undoubtedly the most knowledgeable, effective, and dedicated Pain Medicine and Addiction Medicine Specialist this country has to offer. You will not find a better member for the task force, nor one who is willing to give more to find a reasonable solution of our nation’s opioid crisis.

 Thank you for opening the door to nominations for this committee. I wish you and the Task Force all the success possible.


 Marylee M. James, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor of Sociology, Bellarmine University, Louisville, Kentucky


UPDATE 9/8/17:    HHS requested a statement from Dr. Murphy as to whether he would be willing to serve on this Task Force.  He has responded  “If selected, I will serve.”  –MJames


To anyone who would also like to participate in nominating a candidate for this very important Task Force, please feel free to use the information above as well as your own resources to send an email to: .  Our nation needs recommendations from this Task Force that are realistic, just, and effective. And I believe it will happen with the right people, and the right mix, doing the work. And I definitely believe that Dr. Murphy should be one of those Task Force Members!


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In the chaos of our present—and proposed—health care systems, it may seem strange to those who know me that I would speak strongly against repealing the Affordable Care Act in order to set up a Single Payer System. I am not even going to address the miserable excuses for alternatives to the ACA that our congress-turned-one party-turned-a handful-of-old-white-males tried to foist on our already suffering nation. That is not worth my time, much less yours. So let’s look at what we have (or what is left of it), versus what a growing number of our fellow Americans are claiming to want.

The Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” What is wrong with it? Well, since I am old enough to remember congressional debates and media discussions about it, let me share one clear memory. A certain congressman or senator (I am not here to name names and add to the hostilities) stood in front of his peers, with a binder of papers almost a foot high. That was the ACA, which congress was supposed to stop stalling and cast their votes for or against. The legislator was angry, as he slammed the binder down and asked how many had even read the proposed law. Then he stated that no one could possibly have read such a lengthy and dense document. It had been added to indiscriminately, without enough discussion to make certain that there were no contradictory sections of it. Yet our lawmakers were called upon to vote, and vote they would. And they did, and the Frankenstein monster they created was passed. And some named it Obamacare, in not very subtle derision. Then those same people hated it all the more because it carried Obama’s name. Just an aside: Some of us social science types stated in no uncertain terms that those old white Southern men in Congress were determined that no black man would tell them what to do, and they would do nothing to promote anything he tried to do. “Too harsh of you” others shushed us. Still think so?

Moving on, at the other end of the continuum of political positions we find another “older” white man (I say “older” because I am older than he is, and I don’t want to downplay his energy and passion for his job by putting him in the same age category as me and the old white Southern men). Unlike his counterparts in Congress, he has worked and fought tirelessly to benefit the nation. Actually, I err by pushing him all the way to the left end of the continuum. He is a Liberal, yes—a social democrat. By the way, have you read the biblical book Acts of the Apostles? The part where it describes how communities of Christians lived? They joined the community by pitching in all of their money and other resources, and everyone in the community lived on the combined wealth: “To each, according to his need,” regardless of financial contribution, or lack thereof.

I digress. Sorry. The social democrat of whom I speak has called repeatedly and passionately for Single Payer Insurance, and whether or not it was intentionally in the spirit of the Book of Acts, it was certainly in the spirit of “all {men} are created equal, and endowed with certain rights.” I can’t fault his reasoning for wanting National Health Care (that is what we are actually talking about), but I am very afraid that it is misplaced in time.

Having experienced National Health Care when I was injured in Israel, I can say that I know at least some of its problems. Having experienced National Health Care in South Africa for seven years, I also know many of the benefits. In the former situation, at the age of 43 I fell off of a mountain in Israel and broke my ankle in three places, anteriorly displaced the ankle, and pulled a major tendon off the bone so cleanly there was no bone left on it to regrow and heal in place. My Harvard-trained Israeli physician refused to operate. “You are too old” he told me, “and regardless you will be in a leg brace for the rest of your life.” I could not get a second opinion, nor could I afford to pay cash if he would have done the surgery despite his recommendation. So I called the orthopedic surgeon back in the States with whom I had worked, flew home after a lengthy search for an airline that would take me, and I haven’t ever worn a brace. I do have to admit, being told I was too old to have my broken ankle fixed was almost as traumatic as the injury.

On the other hand, in South Africa for seven years a very reasonable deduction was made from my paycheck to pay for National Health Insurance. I was hospitalized once for three days and paid not a cent; saw 2 or 3 doctors of my choice at any given time and never paid more than $10 copay for a visit, and not more than $2.00 (I am using US equivalents to the Rand, at the time) for medicine. I was well taken care of, even when I suffered a bout of pneumonia, and never had concerns about what would happen to me. The big problem in South Africa, of course, was that “National Health Care” only applied to people who had jobs, or whose employers paid into the system. Others were given cash at the end of a day, or a week, with no benefits. The color of their skin made all the difference.

So National Health Care is not always perfect. People in Canada seem to love it; in England, not so much, but they don’t hate it, either. Again, having the cash to pay for what the government won’t take care of always helps.

The point I have been working up to with all this foreplay is that National Health Care is only going to work when you have a government that is attuned to the needs of the nation it serves, and in some agreement or reasonable compromise about how best to serve those citizens. That does not even come close to describing our government. Putting them in charge of our health care, given their record of misgoverning for at least the past three decades, would be like putting a family of drug dealers in charge of a national pharmacy. The knowledge and expertise—even the Will–required to make good financial decisions about medical care for ALL citizens simply does not exist in our political system.


We HAVE a health care plan. It needs fixing.  SO FIX IT!!! Work together, work in the best interests of the citizens of this country who have, according to our constitution and bill of rights, the right to these good things. There is much more to say about this, but that is for another blog post. First, and foremost, I say to the members of Congress: Do your jobs, fix the mess caused by earlier versions of your peers, and get together like real human beings and give us back our beloved country–the one where we were finally just beginning to accomplish equal rights for everyone.