April 4, 2010

Celebrity Enablers: What Are They Teaching Us?

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Pre-med students bust their asses to beat the means, own the MCATS, and get into the dream medical school. I have seen first hand how difficult the path to being a doctor is. I can only assume how horrifying med school is. Since college, I have looked at doctors completely differently — respecting them for the schooling, the internships, the residencies and whatever else they had to do to get where they are today.

A lot of aspiring doctors want to make money, but a lot of pre-med students or med students do want to help people and make a difference. This is all I can think about when I hear about enablers — the doctors who over-prescribe and over-medicate the rich and famous and help them maintain their drug addictions.

Enabler became the big buzzword this summer with the death of Michael Jackson. The superstar surrounded himself with enabler doctors who pumped him with propofol and lorazepam among other things. Ultimately these enabling doctors were the ones responsible for his death.

Dr. Conrad Murray of the Michael Jackson death is certainly not the only doctor in Hollywood guilty of enabling. One could argue that Heidi Montag’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Frank Ryan, enabled Montag’s harmful addiction. Corey Haim had a myriad of prescription pills before his death, so did Heath Ledger; someone had to have helped these celebrities acquire such pills.

These drug-related deaths shake the public. There is this intrinsic desire to believe that despite the negative press about these people, that they have cleaned up their act and are living relatively normal, productive lives. The majority of people also believe that doctors are there to help them, not kill them.

Why these deaths still shock people is a mystery in and of itself. Enablers are nothing new. Hugh Hefner and Playboy Mansion regulars had Dr. Feel Good (as I read about in the book “Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion”) to do exactly as his name described. I would imagine these enablers were responsible for plenty of celebrity deaths before I was born. However, nothing productive has been done to stop these enablers.

These are just the doctors and scenarios that are made public. Looking specifically at drug enablers, there are thousands of rich and famous people who somehow acquire prescriptions and pills and thrive off of them. Unfortunately, they survive and seem to give doctors this god-like belief that despite the dangers of the drugs they are prescribing, they are being careful enough. After all, what’s a little danger when it is making your very rich, very famous and very powerful client very, very happy?

These physicians have worked hard to become prestigious doctors. So prestigious in fact that celebrities are eager to work with them; to have them as their doctors. But somehow these fantastic, supposedly life-saving doctors become drug dealers — pushing anti-anxiety medications, sleeping pills, pain relievers, whatever else a star wants. At what point did they abandon their medical prestige and promise to better society in order to have Michael Jackson or some other celebrity as a fan?

It is disappointing to the professional medical world that these people exist. They did everything they could to succeed in medical school only to kill the very patients they are supposed to save. These celebrity deaths are becoming all too common but are completely preventable if doctors stop turning to their prescription pads.

To all the pre-med students, med students and future doctors out there — remember why you’re going through all of this. Is it the thrill of knowing you saved someone’s life or is it the exhilaration of knowing you’re dancing with the devil when you write that umpteenth propofol refill?

Original Author: Cara Sprunk