The Holy Trilogy in Bed: Medicine, Law, and Insurance

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

December 10th, 2010 • Patient AdvocacyPrint Print

Following the hit-and-run, head-on car collision that turned my life upside-down, the car insurance company cut short my benefits payment. According to their evaluation, I should have recovered fully within a few months; so therefore, I clearly was out for a buck and making false claims. Furthermore, being that I did not heal as fully and quickly as their wanna-be-doctors claimed I should have, the cause of my pain obviously stemmed not from the car crash itself, but from my “active lifestyle” preceding the car crash — including my regular practice of yoga.

Honest. They said, “yoga.”

It was in fact said yoga that, following the car crash, kept me as pain-free and limber as possible – to the extent that, when the insurance-appointed doctor asked me to bend down and touch my toes, I did so easily, placing my palms flat on the floor. Ergo, I was “fine,” no need for a diagnostic test more sophisticated than the naked eye. My own primary care physician took a similar approach, refusing me tests as basic as an X-ray. I effectively was invalidated and punished — specifically because I was taking excellent care of myself, rather than crumpling into a ball and popping pills in the wake of a traumatic incident.

Then, when I elected to sue the insurance company, I was surprised by how few lawyers wanted to take my case. Not only was there no medical validation of my pain and suffering, but apparently it was a liability that I kept on keeping on, despite pain: Given the independent nature of my work (leading Jewish multicultural workshops and teaching private music classes) I successfully pulled off the gigs I’d lined up, thanks in part to the understanding and flexibility of my clients. I recall teaching flute lessons while lying down on the floor (yes, I am that good, thank you), unable to stand because of excruciating back pain.

Because technically I did not “miss work,” the lawyers felt certain that I would fail in securing compensation for lost wages. Never mind the fact that my ability to hustle new gigs was significantly compromised by pain. Because I was young – ie, on the cusp of success but not quite yet over the hump — I did not have dramatically reduced income to report. Combined with the other factors, I was, in a word, screwed.

Despite being established to protect those in need, the institutions of medicine, law, and insurance in fact may embody paradigms that work against or are outright antagonistic toward the health, wellness, and survival of said individuals. What’s more, the inter-dependency of these institutions may further complicate matters:

The human body, for example, is far more sophisticated than the most advanced Western diagnostic tool. With medicine relying on technology that often fails to identify the source of pain, and with pain often an invisible illness as a result, the patient experience may be neither validated nor properly treated. Conventional medicine doctors have not been trained to recognize and identify systemic forms of imbalance and disharmony — often at the root of “mysterious” and chronic pain.

With insurance and law dependent on medicine, and with patients dependent on all three, there is a domino effect, through which the truth of a situation may become distorted by a core medical inaccuracy. Pain patients not only may find their lives crashing all around them, and not only may be denied financial compensation or government support — leaving them struggling for survival — but also may face charges of manipulating the system and/or outright lying, adding emotional duress to their physical deterioration.



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