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Endometriosis sufferer Anna Dooley shares ‘humiliating experience’ accessing medication, calls for more chronic pain support

When Anna Dooley visited her local chemist to collect pain medication to help her manage endometriosis, the last thing she expected was to leave in tears. 

“He said ‘careful, you may overdose’, and then didn’t let me finish speaking and explaining I have endometriosis,” Ms Dooley explained in the video.

The Sydney-based actor and comedian shared her experience on TikTok, alleging that her personal medical history was aired publicly in the chemist by the pharmacist, and that she was excessively questioned about her intended use of the medication.

“I was trying to explain to him and let him know my situation and he kept talking over me … [I asked him] ‘Why can’t you ask me questions and treat me like a human being?'”

Ms Dooley also alleged in the clip that the pharmacist made jokes about her condition and suggested that she should watch the Netflix drama series Painkiller. 

Anna Dooley shared her experience on her TikTok account, which garnered over 340,000 views. (Supplied: TikTok @thehooleydooley)

The series recounts the origins of the opioid crisis in the United States, suggesting that she should be careful about getting addicted to pain medication. 

Experience highlights shame 

Endometriosis is a common disease where tissue, similar to the lining of the womb, grows outside it in other parts of the body. 

Endometriosis Australia says there are more than 830,000 individuals living with the condition in Australia, and that on average it takes more than six years to be diagnosed. 

Ms Dooley added in the clip that she thought she was doing the right thing by being proactive and getting her prescribed pain medications, just in case she had breakthrough pain — something she said she has often experienced. 

“I was so upset because I was standing in that pharmacy while also in pain.

“The medication I was receiving was for breakthrough pain, not for every day.

A woman performing stand up comedy on stage

Anna Dooley is an actor and comedian living in Sydney, Australia, who recently wrote a one-woman show about her experience with endometriosis. (Supplied: Instagram @annadooley )

“When it happened I was in shock. I was standing there thinking about how many times he has done this to customers; read out their private health record details to a room full of people and instilled shame upon customers for seeking help,” she said. 

Ms Dooley’s video has since amassed more than 340,000 views on TikTok. 

She said the response had been “overwhelming”. 

“I think many endometriosis patients, and others alike, are so used to over-explaining and people not caring, so the majority of kind responses has actually taken me by surprise,” she said. 

Ms Dooley added that while she found the alleged incident upsetting, she has often had positive experiences with health care professionals, and that some pharmacists had reached out after she posted the video. 

“There are some incredible people in health care in the world … However, it shouldn’t be a gamble every time you have to seek help.”

Many women living with pain

Ms Dooley’s clip going viral comes the same week that advocates held a rally outside Parliament House in Canberra calling for changes in Australia’s health system, in particular for women living with chronic pain. 

Pain Australia, a charity organisation that advocates for Australians living with pain, said in a statement that they were calling for a “significant change to the way GPs manage chronic pain” through their Walk My Pain launch.

The campaign is calling for an increase in Medicare funded allied-health visits, doubling the current number available from five to 10, to assist those living with painful conditions. 

Pain Australia campaign launch Sept 2023

Senator Larissa Waters speaks at the Pain Australia campaign launch for Walk My Pain, calling on the government to double the number of Medicare funded allied-health visits.(Facebook: Pain Australia )

They claim 3.4 million people in Australia live with chronic illness, and that the most common person in Australia living with chronic pain is a woman in the peak of her working years.

During Question Time in the Senate on Wednesday, Senator Larissa Waters asked what the government was going to do for women suffering. 

Minister for Women Katy Gallagher responded, acknowledging that there were still obstacles for women in Australia when accessing health care. 

“I acknowledge that there are still barriers affecting women and their access to health care, and indeed when they access health care the way in which those conditions are responded to … and there is a lot of evidence around bias,” Ms Gallagher said. 

She added that there has been a women’s health advisory group brought together to tackle some of the issues raised. 

“There is a lot of work happening,” Ms Gallagher said. 

Ms Dooley, who is currently performing in a one-woman show as part of Sydney’s Fringe Festival, called Endhoe, which she wrote about her experience living with endometriosis, said she would like to see changes to how women access health care to focus on culture and support. 

“Endometriosis patients need to be heard and taken seriously, there is no recovery without listening and action,” she said.

“Change can start very simply by creating a culture of no shame.” 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-09-14/sydney-endometriosis-sufferer-anna-dooley-chronic-pain/102854594 Endometriosis sufferer Anna Dooley shares ‘humiliating experience’ accessing medication, calls for more chronic pain support

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