“I was holding his hand as he pulled the trigger”, described Meredith Lawrence. She is the widow of a pain patient who committed suicide.
Jay Lawrence took his life after his doctor abruptly cut him off his opioid pain medications. Jay shot himself in the head on March 2, 2017 in the park where they had renewed their wedding vows just two years earlier. Meredith says Jay chose to end his own life because he felt like he couldn’t live with the pain any longer.
Jay struggled with degenerative back injuries from a car crash that took place in the late 1990s. He hid the pain from Meredith for years, until one night at dinner, his legs buckled and collapsed beneath him. Jay fell into Meredith’s arms and had no choice but to come clean.
He told her, he no longer had feeling in his legs and was losing his ability to walk. After that, Meredith and Jay sought medical care for his injuries.
Between 2007 and 2008, Jay had multiple surgeries to repair the damage in his back, including one upper and two lower spinal fusions. But even after the surgeries Jay was still in extreme pain and was left with limited mobility.
Meredith says, “he was always a little leery of pain medications,” but by 2009, the pain was so bad that he started taking Oxycontin and other opioid medications to help him function. The doctors kept him on a constant dose but switched around the medications to find ones that worked for him.
Taking opioid medications helped him remain mobile for almost eight years. According to Meredith, “He always had that 120 milligrams, and as long as he had that in some form, he had some sort of quality of life.”
That is, until his doctors decided to cut him off his pain medications in 2017. They told him that the Tennessee prescription guidelines had changed and that they were cutting him down from 120 milligrams to 30 milligrams of opioid medication a day.
The doctors claimed Jay suffered from a condition called hyperalgesia and that the pain he experienced every day was just in his head. The couple felt abandoned by their doctors and Meredith says it destroyed Jay’s will to survive. In the weeks after the doctor’s decision, Jay fell into a deep depression and decided to take his own life.
Since then, Meredith has become an advocate for pain patients across the nation. She’s linked up with a group called the “Pain News Network” to raise awareness for the issue.
Meredith says, “I’m hoping we’re making a difference and putting a face to that… I really think that it’s starting to get some attention. They’re killing people by doing this.”
One day, she hopes that doctors will begin to see patients as people instead of liabilities because she believes it could prevent more suicides, like her husband’s, from happening in the future.