Via Balloon Juice, I saw this article about Robin Prosser, an activist for medical marijuana legalization in Montana. The article has all the details, but the short version is, Prosser had an 'immunosupressive' disorder that sounds to me like CFS with MCS. She was unable to use traditional pain medication because she was allergic, and the medications made her very ill (or, like my doctors say about me, "she was unable to tolerate the side effects"); marijuana was the only substance that improved her condition, so she used it. Since she was an activist, she was on the Feds' radar, and they caught her with half an ounce. The article doesn't say whether or not they were prosecuting, but they really didn't need to. When they took away her pain relief, Prosser killed herself.
I was hesitant to write about this, because obviously it's very upsetting. I look at this situation and it brings up a whole slew of issues that I struggle with. Chronic pain is absolutely devastating in so many ways, and it's compounded when the solutions that are supposed to make you better only make you worse. That situation would be bad enough, but then once you find something that gives you some relief, authority jumps in and crushes you again. I've read a few blog posts here and there, and the occasional commenter who laments giving up hope in the face of all the wonders of modern medicine makes me so angry and sorrowful I want to puke. It's hard to understand, if you're basically healthy, what it's like to live with a body that tortures you every second of every day, and to be unable to stop the pain.
Most people are able to live imagining that if they were ever a prisoner under torture, they would be able to hold up their head and say, "Do your worst, I defy you." I used to hold that illusion. I don't anymore; I know the truth, like Prosser knew it: there are things worse than death.
I'm reading Dead Certain, the biography of President Bush that came out a few months ago. I had forgotten that W. ran on a platform of "compassionate conservatism;" I think he may have forgotten it also, this many years later. As impossible and hopeless as it might be, compassionate government in any form, conservative or liberal, seems like a grand idea to me. Because the way the system is run these days, people in need get the message that it would be better for everyone if they were to go off and freeze to death under a bridge than to expect a helping hand from anyone. Politicians would rather appear to be protecting kids from drugs than allow someone living in hell on earth a minute of relief. Like Sullivan said, the government has come down to "protecting people from the alleviation of their own pain."