Is the doctor or patient responsible for celebrity drug overdoses?

When it came to Michael Jackson, I argued recently that the singer himself had to share some of the blame.

An op-ed in the Houston Chronicle places more blame, however, on a celebrity’s enablers, be it a personal physician or part of their entourage with access to a doctor.

By enabling a celebrity’s dependence to drugs, the piece, citing the case of Anna Nicole Smith, says, “facilitation of Smith’s prescription drug abuse may well have ensured her dependence upon [Smith’s lawyer Howard K. Stern], and thus his continued employment with her. Street-level drug dealers have always aimed to make their customers dependent, solely for financial reasons. The evidence suggests that these celebrity consiglieres are no different.”

Treating celebrity patients exposes doctors to a variety of risks, none of which are taught in medical school. I’ve noted previously that the patient’s fame can upset the traditional doctor-patient dynamic, and in doing so, ensures that treatment falls far below the standard of care.

Furthermore, as the op-ed ominously concludes, “if unwarranted requests for prescription drugs continue to be met with an easy supply chain — among celebrities and the general public — we should prepare ourselves for a frightening growth in membership to the overdose club.”

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