Opioid use at the end of life: working out the physician’s intentions

Lalit Krishna, Benjamin Capps

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2011.013


Opioid use at the end of life has been a matter of debate among some doctors because of its perceived life-shortening effects . Opioid medications such as Morphine, Tramadol, Codeine, Oxycodone and Fentanyl are effective in relieving pain, but can also cause death through respiratory depression. Because of this possibility, it has been argued that doctors utilise such medications at the end of life if the premature death of the patient is intended. Because of this claim and the fact that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are illegal in most countries, many physicians are reluctant to use these medications for fear of having their intentions questioned. The result is that physicians fail in their duty of care because patients suffer unnecessarily though effective and proven treatments exist.

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