All of us are irreplaceable to someone—but few are irreplaceable in the public sphere. Siobhan Reynolds, 50, founder of the Pain Relief Network, who died in a plane crash Christmas Eve, was the exception. She tirelessly, compassionately and at huge financial and emotional cost to herself, worked to debunk myths about opioid treatment of chronic pain that continue to emerge even now.
The aspiring documentary filmmaker and mother of one was moved to activism by the overwhelming chronic pain suffered by her husband. Further spurred by learning that her son had inherited the same genetic disease, Reynolds was relentless.
Why, she asked, when opioids can help treat chronic pain, are they frequently only available to the dying—but not if your agony will last years? Why, when addiction to opioids is actually rare, do we treat them as though everyone who takes these drugs is likely to get instantly hooked? And why do we seem to see addiction—even in the dying— as a worse side effect than agony or even death?
To answer these questions, she educated herself in the intricacies of pharmacology, public policy, medicine and law. A master at simplifying complex stories for the media, Reynolds then used every means at her disposal to bring what she found to public attention.