Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is This What Happened To You?

I got this e-mail today;


First, thank you for your wonderful blog. It is refreshing and reassuring to know that there are others who share at least some of my feelings. My story isn't all that exciting, but I hope you'll read and comment on it.

A few years ago, I had a scheduled endoscopy at a local hospital. I was told that I would be given sedation that would allow me to be awake through the procedure but that I should bring a driver to take me home afterwards. I was given an IV that made me feel very woozy and I remember the nurse putting a numbing paste on the back of my throat. After what seemed like a minute or two I asked when they were going to start. The nurse told me they'd already done the procedure and I was going to be taken to recovery. I was never, ever told that I would be given a drug (Versed) that would induce amnesia! I was upset about this at the time but never said anything.

Last week I had a colonoscopy scheduled for Thursday. By Monday of that week, I still hadn't received any paperwork from the clinic so I stopped by and was given a copy. I read through it at lunch time, and realized they were planning to sedate me. This was not an option in any case as I had nobody to drive me home, but the paperwork said I would be given a sedative to "relax" me and a narcotic for pain. I asked the receptionist what drugs were given, and told it was Versed and Demerol. I told him in no uncertain terms that I did not want the Versed. I was told that I could still not drive home with the Demerol alone, and that I could request the procedure without any drugs but that this was "not recommended." I told him this was what I wished to do (no drugs), and he said he'd check with the doc and get back to me. The doc was OK with not using any drugs.

On the day of my procedure, the MA who took my history and vitals already knew I wanted to do the procedure without Versed or Demerol. She marked this on my wrist band and on my chart as well. A saline IV was started, which was acceptable because I know they need access in case anything goes wrong (like a punctured bowel and they have to give me a transfusion.) The nurse and doctor doing the procedure were very friendly and professional and did not question or patronize me for wanting to do the procedure without drugs. The procedure went fine...just a little bit of crampy gas from time to time.

Although my request to not have Versed (or Demerol) was handled perfectly by everyone involved, I have become more and more angry and suspicious over the past few days about why my preparation instructions never mentioned I would be given an amnesic. If I hadn't had the endoscopy 5 years ago, I never would have thought to ask this question. I've discussed this with some colleagues in the medical field (I myself am an EMT and preparing for PA school), and I invariably get an incredulous look and something along the lines of "Well, why wouldn't anybody want to forget?" This is MY body, MY mind, MY life and I decide what happens! I can't even begin to believe that most people don't think this omission about what Versed really does isn't a problem! I WANT MY MEMORIES INTACT...even the bad ones, even the very traumatic ones, and NOBODY has the right to steal them from me! Why do I feel like I'm the only person who feels like this? I so need validation about this right now.

I did call the Patient Advocacy department at the hospital today and explained my concern to a very nice nurse. She contacted the nurse manager in gastroenterology, who said she will bring this up at a meeting tomorrow and see if there is a consensus to modify the colonoscopy preparation paperwork to say that a drug that "makes patients forget" will be given during the procedure. The nurse manager from gastro is supposed to call me tomorrow and let me know the outcome. We'll see. If they refuse to change the wording to make it more transparent, I think their motives are quite clear. In any case, I told the nurse from patient advocacy that for any future procedures I was to be given NO Versed, NO benzodiazepenes, and NO amnesics of any kind, ever. She told me the information would be put on my hospital record. We'll see about that, too.

First of all this is an example of the HUGE problem with not only Versed, but "informed consent" in general.  This patient, quite rightly, was upset that the "sedation" (medical doublespeak, Versed is nothing like a sedative) wasn't completely explained to him.  He obviously expected to be sedated (made serene) but not to experience a complete blackout of events.  Medical people fake surprise when somebody mentions that they should have been told of the AMNESIA.  "Oh my goodness, why would anybody want to remember their procedure?"  Patient rights demand that we are told exactly what will happen to us.  Pretending that the patient is somehow outside the realm of normalcy by not wanting chemical Alzheimers is WRONG.  Ommiting pertinant information about a drugs action is illegal, no matter how much medical people want to pretend that it's normal.  They CONCEAL the drug itself in order to CONCEAL the procedure from the patient.  Why do they want to CONCEAL everything from the patient?  They have no RIGHT to do this, or to act like "everybody" wants amnesia.  Everybody does NOT want amnesia.  It is our right to KNOW what Versed is and does, and we have the right to REFUSE THIS DRUG.

Fortunately this particular patient was allowed to refuse drugs without repercussions.  Nobody sneaked it into his "saline".  So there is some progress.  However this patient noticed the false and misleading verbiage in his second encounter.  He was alert and aware of medical fraud as it pertains to their AMNESIA drug.  Medical people want to use this drug for two reasons  1) it allows them to treat their patient roughly without fear of being caught.  2)  it adds thousands of dollars to the most routine procedures.  Notice that there is nothing about Versed being "good" for patients.  These medical people have seen over and over, just how bad this drug is for a lot of people.  They have become inured to patient suffering because of Versed.  THEY want to use Versed and have come up with myriad ways to sneak it into unsuspecting patients.  The lack of concise language in the so-called "informed consent" is a deliberate ploy to get what they want.

As far as the "new and improved" information in the patient paperwork describing Versed as "making patients forget" this is yet another ruse to make patients sanguine about medical care so that they can be abused.  Versed doesn't "make you forget" which sound innocuous, it gives you complete and total amnesia along with abnormal obedience and a motor mouth.  Why not say what Versed really does?  I'm sure that there are patients who might like this!   If everybody welcomes amnesia and hates the idea of remembering every detail of their procedure, then what's the problem with being honest and transparent?  After all, if ALL patients want to forget the whole thing, then medical people would gleefully detail what Versed is and does, wouldn't they?   So why don't they?


  1. I can almost guarantee they will not change to wording to let patients know the drug is given to " MAKE patients forget." At most, they may state that the patient will be sleepy and "may not remember" the procedure. Slighty different wording, but is deceptive nonetheless, implying it isn't intentional, which we all know it is.
    I also do not want my memories stolen from me EVER, and the fact it was done to me without knowledge or warning makes it feel like mental rape. Yes, I did feel that violated.
    It is refreshing to know there are some medical people who will respect a patient's right to refuse Versed, but sadly, they are in the minority. Most patients are bullied into accepting it, or given it against their wishes, under the guise of
    "just trying to help." ( Help THEM, they really mean)
    NeverAgain, I await your comments...

    1. Violated, exactly. Nothing is more intimate and personal than your own memories, and they were taken without your knowledge or permission.

  2. By the way, I also didn't receive instructions for my colonoscopy preparation until 2 days before the procedure. They made no mention of the drugs that would be used; and neither did the consent form I received & was asked to sign minutes before the procedure. I was simply told to bring a driver, since I would be sedated. I mistakenly thought that meant I would receive something SEDATING, not something specifically intended to erase my memory.
    I suspect it is intentional not to give the patients too much information ( at almost the last minute), knowing most won't ask any questions, just wanting to get it all over with. VERY TRICKY

    1. Thanks for your reply. In all fairness to the hospital, there were some issues from my end (no pun intended!) with scheduling the colonoscopy, which I did while I was out of state for several weeks. It's likely the paperwork was mailed while I was away and got lost in the stack of mail and other papers that was here when I returned. The paperwork I received from the Endoscopy clinic at the hospital on August 4 was dated June 23.

      We live in a culture where most of us are taught at some point that it is unacceptable to tell lies for our own convenience but it that it is perfectly OK to tell half-truths and omit relevant information when it furthers our own interests. I think that more people would refuse drugs like Versed or Propofol were told they would be given a drug that would prevent memories from being formed while being awake during a potentially traumatic procedure, they would either refuse the drug or refuse the procedure outright. Both of these things result in lost time/money for the provider.

      To be fair, I've come to realize from speaking to most of my friends and colleagues that most people DON'T want to remember these procedures and welcome the drugs. That's fine for them, and it should be their choice. I do want my memories, even the traumatic ones, and nobody has the right to take them from me.

      By the way, I just spoke to the nurse manager at the gastro clinic. She said she is going to bring up my concerns about the wording of the prep instructions in a meeting with the docs next week and get back to me. So we'll see. She did tell me that when she herself preps a patient for a procedure, she always explains the drugs and the effects. She did agree with me that explaining these things at the last minute before the IV is put in not ideal. I asked if I was the only person to ever have this reaction to being given Versed, and she told me that I am.

    2. I will bet that if these procedures with Versed were all videotaped, and the patients were allowed to watch them later, there would be outrage.

    3. I think you're onto something (although you probably wouldn't use videotape these days!). One of the best innovations in law enforcement has been the use of cameras either in the cruisers and/or worn by officers during their work. I have a friend who is a police chief in the town where I grew up, and he is an ardent supporter of this technology. Both the cops and the people they stop tend to behave better when they know they're being recorded.

  3. Hi, all, this is a very informative blog--thank you for sharing your experiences. While I cannot confirm it, I believe I was given an 'overdose' of Versed in 2009 that really messed me up. I got 6 cc in a very short time--maybe 2-3 minutes--because I was anxious about the surgery (endometrial ablation--I'd had a gall bladder surgery at the same facility that went really wrong, and honestly, it was more the hospital that frightened me than anything--they weren't even going to let my hubby sit with me pre-op until I said I wouldn't have the surgery otherwise). No titration, nothing--isn't that a very hefty dose for a 160 lb female? I remember it made me extremely nauseated and didn't really help my anxiety--it worsened it. In the OR, I felt like I was choking and then everything went black. Post-op, after a series of panic attacks, I was formally diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder by a psychiatrist (MD) and spent 2 years in outpatient therapy (cognitive behavior therapy, medication, and exposure therapy).

    So--did I have an anxiety order beforehand, and Versed merely exacerbated it? Or did I perhaps not really have an anxiety disorder, but just plain old "pre-op nerves" that anyone might have, and Versed ended up causing me to have PTSD? No one can say. But I'm stuck with this for the rest of my life. I did really well in treatment and didn't have another major episode for 4 years. I even had disk surgery on my spine and did great (I may have had Versed, but I don't think so--different hospital and much better care--I remember everything, and the anesthesiologist talked to me in the OR--she even said, you tell us when YOU are ready, and promised it would be nothing like the ablation--and she was right--no choking or anything).

    Although my last episode involved Versed, it wasn't me having it--hubby had to have arthroscopic knee surgery in 2013. He had a serious reaction to Versed (respiratory distress) when he'd had an endoscopy a few years earlier, and the anesthesiologist very responsibly told us. "You have a hypersensitivity to Versed, so always let your team know that they need to avoid it in the future"). No one had a problem with that until the CRNA at the knee scope. He was downright nasty and mad about not being able to use Versed (he kept saying how much he LOVED it)--he told me as they were wheeling my husband out, "Don't worry--I'll keep him out unless he stops breathing, hahaha." What a jerk!! Anyway, I made it back to the lobby and then had a full out screaming panic attack and almost ended up running out into the road. I hardly remember it. One of the nurses luckily knew how to 'reach' me (i.e. how to deal with a fight or flight reaction), and we talked and sat together until hubby was ready to leave. We wrote one heck of a letter to the hospital and his knee surgeon. They were horrified. They made the CRNA call and apologize personally. The ortho surgeon even said, "He's technically a great CRNA, one of the best, but yes, his bedside manner can be harsh." Nice.

    So--I guess my concluding point is that both me and my husband have had bad reactions to it. We've also had responsible anesthesiologists who have skipped it and/or told us it wasn't in our best interests, and that was helpful. I think my big fear is that within the next 2 years, I'll be in the age range to have a colonoscopy. I don't know if I can find anyone who is willing to skip the Versed. Any suggestions on how to find someone? Do you just keep calling gastroenterologists or what? Thanks for reading!

    1. I haven't had a colonoscopy because I think it's just one more intrusive test in the quest for medical dollars. There are a LOT of articles both pro and con for the test. In my mind, if you are asymptomatic, just do the stool test. It's cheap and can tell you if you might benefit from the full on colonoscopy.

      As for finding a place that does the test without Versed, I was pleasantly surprised that in my medium sized city, there is a place who has a specil doctor who ONLY performs the unsedated tests. If that is available here, it should be available some place near you.

      6cc is an enormous amount of Versed in the time frame you describe. This stuff only takes a little to fry your brain.

      Versed CAUSED PTSD in me. To this day I haven't fully recovered from the scrambling my brain received. I have high anxiety now about all kinds of stuff and anger management issues. Things that were never a problem before the Versed.

      Next time you need anesthesia dispense with the uppity anesthesia nurse. They are nearly all megalomaniacs with narcissistic personality disorder, in my opinion, having dealt with plenty of them. Demand a real anesthesiologist and avoid what happened with your husband. Knowing what I know now, I would have FIRED the rude crna on the spot. That's your right.