This article was published in Wired on August 11, 2021, written by Maia Szalavitz.
Topic: NarxCare, Opioid Risk Tool, and discrimination against women sexual abuse/assault survivors
Mentions our organization and quotes our VP, Bev Schechtman
"ONE EVENING IN July of 2020, a woman named Kathryn went to the hospital in excruciating pain.
A 32-year-old psychology grad student in Michigan, Kathryn lived with endometriosis, an agonizing condition that causes uterine-like cells to abnormally develop in the wrong places. Menstruation prompts these growths to shed—and, often, painfully cramp and scar, sometimes leading internal organs to adhere to one another—before the whole cycle starts again.
For years, Kathryn had been managing her condition in part by taking oral opioids like Percocet when she needed them for pain. But endometriosis is progressive: Having once been rushed into emergency surgery to remove a life-threatening growth on her ovary, Kathryn now feared something just as dangerous was happening, given how badly she hurt.
In the hospital, doctors performed an ultrasound to rule out some worst-case scenarios, then admitted Kathryn for observation to monitor whether her ovary was starting to develop another cyst. In the meantime, they said, they would provide her with intravenous opioid medication until the crisis passed.
n her fourth day in the hospital, however, something changed. A staffer brusquely informed Kathryn that she would no longer be receiving any kind of opioid. “I don’t think you are aware of how high some scores are in your chart,” the woman said. “Considering the prescriptions you’re on, it’s quite obvious that you need help that is not pain-related.”
Kathryn, who spoke to WIRED on condition that we use only her middle name to protect her privacy, was bewildered. What kind of help was the woman referring to? Which prescriptions, exactly? Before she could grasp what was happening, she was summarily discharged from the hospital, still very much in pain.
Back at home, about two weeks later, Kathryn received a letter from her gynecologist’s office stating that her doctor was “terminating” their relationship. Once again, she was mystified. But this message at least offered some explanation: It said she was being cut off because of “a report from the NarxCare database.”
Like most people, Kathryn had never heard of NarxCare, so she looked it up—and discovered a set of databases and algorithms that have come to play an increasingly central role in the United States’ response to its overdose crisis.