Patient Referral

Does Morphine Speed Up Death in Hospice Patients?

morphine hospice

Many people worry about the use of morphine in hospice care. Morphine is a powerful medication used in hospice care to manage pain and other symptoms in patients with life-limiting illness. While morphine is an effective pain reliever, misconceptions can cause patients and families to worry that morphine will speed up the dying process.

Morphine, when used properly and in the appropriate doses, does not hasten death. In fact, it can improve the quality of life for patients who are experiencing pain or other distressing symptoms. Morphine works by blocking pain signals in the brain and nervous system, which can reduce pain and help patients feel more comfortable.

morphine side effects

Understanding the Side Effects of Morphine 

Hospice care is often called “comfort care,” because the goal of hospice care is to ensure that the patient has the highest possible quality of life for the remainder of their life. Morphine and other opioids can be an important tool in addressing pain and shortness of breath.

Morphine can have some side effects, such as sedation, respiratory depression, and decreased blood pressure. In some cases, these side effects may be misinterpreted as morphine speeding up death. For example, if a patient is heavily sedated or experiences respiratory depression, they may appear to be near death, when in fact they are simply experiencing the effects of the medication.

It is important to note that the use of morphine in hospice care is carefully monitored by healthcare professionals. The medication is typically administered in small doses, and the patient's response is closely monitored. Healthcare providers are trained to recognize and address any potential side effects of morphine, and to adjust the dosage as needed to ensure the patient's comfort and safety.

addiction concerns morphine

Addiction Concerns 

Another concern we often hear about the use of morphine and other pain medications is the risk of addiction.

Opioids are highly addictive. When individuals are recovering from an injury or addressing a chronic medical condition, there absolutely needs to be a plan for managing the risk of addiction. This is not needed for terminally-ill hospice patients.

To be eligible for hospice care, a patient must have a prognosis of six months or less to live if their illness follows its typical course. Sadly, these patients are not going to get better. Therefore, addiction is not a concern. The only concern is keeping these patients comfortable for the remainder of their lives.

Struggling with pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms is exhausting and hard on the body. Rather than morphine speeding up death, research has found that hospice patients receiving morphine lived longer, and more comfortably, because the medication reduces their pain and improves their breathing.

The goal of hospice care is to improve the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses, not to hasten death. Hospice care providers work to manage pain and other symptoms, provide emotional support, and help patients and their families navigate the end-of-life process. The use of morphine, when used appropriately and in conjunction with other care, can be an important part of this process.

Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care supports patients and families facing serious and terminal illness. To learn more about our services, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.


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