The woman came to Dr. Alister Martin three years ago, pleading for help. She was in the throes of opioid addiction, he in the first year of residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital emergency department. “I don’t want this life,” she told him.
But when Martin asked his supervisor what he should do, the attending physician said to send her home. A world-famous Harvard-affiliated medical center, the biggest hospital in Massachusetts, offered nothing to this patient.
That was hardly unusual, then or now. For decades, programs for people with addiction have developed largely outside the medical system.