tv Fault Lines Al Jazeera September 1, 2015 2:30am-3:01am EDT
>> this is where i'll be buried. >> right next to her. >> mmmhmm. >> six years ago, roy bosley's wife, carol, died after overdosing on prescription painkillers. she was 60. >> it should have never happened. >> in what's being called a 'hidden epidemic' a growing number of elderly americans are dying after taking too many narcotics. >> when you remember her, how do you think about her? do you think about her as the woman you married? >> i think about the woman i married and the fun we had. and i also am caused to pause about the times that weren't so great. and i try to put those in the far corners of my mind.
>> when she was on all the painkillers? >> yep. the far corners of my mind. she was between the ottoman and the floor. i couldn't see her face. so i rolled her over. >> and her pills were? >> her pills were on top of the ottoman. i grabbed the telephone. i started doing cardiac massage, called 9-1-1. and from there it's history. this is horrible. >> on the day before thanksgiving in 2009, roy bosley came home to find his wife of 38 years, collapsed on the floor of their den. >> she basically stopped breathing. >> carol was dead.
it wasn't the first time roy found her passed out. >> this is the back door of the house, and she is unconscious, laying over the shoe thing. >> so you come home and you find her that way? >> yeah. >> so this is different than being asleep? >> she's not asleep. she is out. you have to shake her and shake her and shake her to get her to wake up. would you consider this a normal sleeping position? same thing here, same thing here, she's totally out. no idea whats going on. she had been eating oatmeal and she went out while she was consuming the oatmeal and you can see that it's coming out of her mouth. it's a miracle that she didn't choke to death. you can see that she was watching television and she was
using the remote control and passed out. >> roy said he took the pictures to prove to carol and her doctor that she was overdosing again and again. she'd started taking painkillers after she was injured in a bad car accident and had several spinal surgeries. in 2008, she went to lifetree, a pain clinic in salt lake city, utah, and was prescribed 7 different drugs, including painkillers and antidepressants. >> the two big ones that stand out are the oxycodone and percocet. and you know that those are both opiates. so why is she on two? we're talking about 224 pills of oxycodone and we're talking about 112 percocets. >> over the next year, carol's doses more than doubled. by the time she died, she was
taking 600 pills a month. >> that in itself is quite a message. totally completely out of control. and she didn't overdose because she was depressed or anything like that. she overdosed simply because she would take the medication and there was enough of it that it would make her confused and she would take more. >> so what was carol like when she was on all this medication? >> she was withdrawn. she didn't leave this room much at all. she spent much of her time in pajamas. didn't leave the house for anything. >> after repeated trips to the er for taking too many pills, carol's family finally convinced her to get treatment for addiction. >> and two weeks into that program, she was managing her pain on tylenol. nothing else. and she was happy. that was the neat thing. she was happy. she was in control of her life.
>> but that didn't last long. soon they were back at lifetree, meeting with her pain doctor. >> we were ushered into a room, and he informed me that a chronic pain sufferer could not be an addict. >> this was dr. webster. >> yes. then he told me that he was her physician. and that he would prescribe what he felt was appropriate. period. and from there, it went downhill, the result of which is she died. >> i'm not gonna respond to any of my former patients. there would be a hipaa violation, and i think it would be unethical for me to talk about it. somebody dies under our care. i think if people over-take their medication they can get foggy, and then they can keep taking more medicine. that's a risk. and - and it can end in death, when that happens.
ideally --. >> who's responsible for that? >> the patient themselves has to be sure that they don't take more than what's instructed. >> would you prescribe someone opioids if they come out of recovery for drug addiction? specifically being addicted to opioids? >> i would have to evaluate it. it would depend upon-- it would depend upon the situation. >> roy bosley sued dr. webster for medical malpractice. they reached a settlement out of court. a couple of years ago, dr. webster told a newspaper that as many as 20 of his former patients died of opioid overdoses. he sold his pain clinic in 2010, and no longer sees patients. >> should have stopped him then. should have stopped him. it's been so hard to deal with because i literally regret every day that i didn't do something different.
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aljazeera america. >> i need to get that pill in me because i've been several hours without it during the night, you know. that's my percocet, and my oxycodone and vitamin d, and this is an oxycontin 10 they suggest i take in the night. >> shirley sharr is 86 years old and she takes a high dose of opioids every day, to deal with pain that began after she had knee replacement surgery 13 years ago. her morning dose is the most important. nighttime is the longest she goes without taking the medication. >> and then i take this with me when we leave to go on an errand or something. this is always in my purse.
i cannot ever forget that or i'd be in trouble. >> shirley's daughter, cari, sets an alarm to remind her mother to take the next dose, in three and a half hours. over the years, shirley's doctors steadily increased her dosage because she was developing a tolerance to the medication... it wasn't as effective. >> does it still manage your pain? does it help? >> no. well it does. but i'm still always in pain. i'm never out of pain. >> i wanted to ask you about some of the side effects of the painkillers that you're on. shortness of breath to the degree that it can actually cause respiratory problems or respiratory failure. >> i'm concerned about that because i feel like i don't breathe as well. it makes me light-headed, you know, when i'm overdosed. >> so another side effect is slowing your heart rate down? >> when i take too much, i feel that. i feel like i'm not getting
enough air. >> it sounds like you have to make a calculation every time you take your painkillers about how much it will help you and how hard it will be on you? >> oh, i do. mmhmm. i do. that leg is constantly swollen. and that's because i'm holding water, you know? i can't seem to dump it. >> is water retention from the pills? >> yup. >> even though she's been taking opioids for years, shirley says her pain is getting worse. >> so i'm going to take this pill. will you set my clock? where's my clock? >> so it's just been two and a half hours. >> sometimes i take it early when it's this bad. >> when she doesn't want to take any more medication, shirley has a different way of dealing with her pain, which she read about on the internet. it's called tapping. >> in the middle of the night,
it's my savior. i just can tap the pain down to where i can go back to bed. and there are several places that you tap on your body, and i do it three times and within three or four minutes the pain is diminished. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. and the pain, i would say half the pain is gone. and i only do it when it's really bad so that helps but it's incredible. >> how does it work compared to painkillers? >> well, it's just as good as the painkiller i think.
>> have you ever thought about reducing your painkiller dosage or going off of it and instead using tapping and using other methods to try to control the pain? >> no. >> but the tapping doesn't have any of these side effects like constipation and shortness of breath, and a lowered heart rate. >> that's true. that's true. it's just -- i don't know if i'd have the courage to stop it. >> i love sewing and that really takes my mind off my pain. so i take as little as i can to get by. i don't like it, but it sure solves my problem with pain. i wish they'd come up with something else that would be more helpful that isn't so addicting. and i guess i'm addicted. i don"t know. i've done this for several years. >> while doctors and patients debate the best ways to deal
with chronic pain, millions of senior citizens continue to fill new prescriptions for narcotics. a growing number of them suffering devastating consequences, leaving families struggling to make sense of deaths they believe could have been prevented. >> there isn't a day goes by that i don't think about her. i miss her so much. the memories of what i saw, what i found that day. they're hard to get rid of. i can't get rid of them. i don't think i ever will. and so i have to learn to live with those. i have to learn to put those aside and focus on the things that are pleasant and happy. because that's how we get through life.
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