Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Findings Contradict Longstanding Bias Against The Use Of Morphine At The End Of Life

Date:
November 30, 2005
Source:
Oregon Health & Science University
Summary:
A new report contradicts both public and professional bias against the use of morphine in the final stage of life for patients with breathing difficulties. Because large amounts of morphine slows breathing, doctors have traditionally avoided prescribing the drug to dying patients with breathing difficulties for fear it would shorten life. However, the author of this new case series suggests that some patients who receive an appropriate level of morphine live a little longer because their fear and struggle for breath are reduced.

A report written by an OHSU physician with more than a half century of medical experience contradicts both public and professional bias against the use of morphine in the final stage of life for patients with breathing difficulties. Because large amounts of morphine slows breathing, doctors have avoided prescribing the drug to dying patients with breathing difficulties for fear it would shorten life. However, the author of this new case series suggests that some patients who receive an appropriate level of morphine live a little longer because their fear and struggle for breath are reduced. The research is published in the current issue of the Journal of Palliative Care.

"Much has changed in health care since the initial concerns about morphine and breathing difficulties were documented in the 1950's," said Miles Edwards M.D., Professor of Medicine Emeritus in the OHSU School of Medicine and a clinical consultant the Center for Ethics in Health Care at OHSU. "For decades, physicians have been advised to avoid prescribing even small doses of morphine to dying patients with breathing difficulties based on the traditional belief that the drug made breathing more difficult and hastened death. However that line of thinking seems to be a medical urban legend. In fact, this age-old advice should likely be reversed for some patients. By slowing down breathing with morphine and controlling panic, patients become fatigued less quickly. They are breathing at a slower pace, but they also require less oxygen so the condition and the drug don't act in conflict with one another as one might think."

The research paper focused on five case examples involving patients who had been given appropriate doses of morphine to control their suffering in the final stage of life after a ventilator was removed. This case series focused on patients who were on ventilators at the end of life and who wanted the ventilators withdrawn. The major finding of this case series was that each of the patients lived longer than predicted by their physicians when morphine and sedation were provided. The paper provides details about each of these cases, contradicting the longstanding beliefs that moderate doses of morphine hasten death by suppressing breathing.

"Overall, the appropriate use of morphine in the final minutes, hours or days of life is becoming a more accepted practice by doctors nationwide," explained Susan Tolle, MD., Director for the Center for Ethics in Health Care at OHSU. "If a person feels that they are suffocating, they struggle for oxygen and panic sets in. Much like a scuba diver who panics, these patients are trying to use more oxygen than is available to them. What Dr. Edwards has learned is that an appropriate level of morphine can suppress this anxiety allowing a person to survive on less oxygen and live longer. It also allows these patients to live out their final minutes, hours or days of life in a more peaceful manner."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon Health & Science University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Oregon Health & Science University. "Findings Contradict Longstanding Bias Against The Use Of Morphine At The End Of Life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 November 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051130230447.htm>.
Oregon Health & Science University. (2005, November 30). Findings Contradict Longstanding Bias Against The Use Of Morphine At The End Of Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051130230447.htm
Oregon Health & Science University. "Findings Contradict Longstanding Bias Against The Use Of Morphine At The End Of Life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051130230447.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

AP (July 22, 2014) Sounding alarms about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned Tuesday if the global community does not confront the problem soon, the world will be living in a devastating post-antibiotic era. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins