Scenario 5: Morphine use

The staff in the nursing home have assessed that Gran will benefit from morphine because she is in pain, but doesn’t this mean she will die more quickly?

  • There is a common misperception in the community that morphine is given to hasten death when a person approaches the end of life.
  • Many people with advanced dementia experience chronic and sometimes severe pain. Because they cannot describe this pain, it is often untreated or undertreated.
  • While an overdose of morphine may suppress breathing and can lead to death, this does not occur when properly administered for pain relief. Patients with severe pain can use high doses of morphine without their breathing being suppressed.
  • Any medicines given to a person at the end of life should be administered and monitored by trained staff and the emphasis should be on maintaining the person’s comfort and quality of life.
  • Morphine and similar drugs are used to relieve severe pain, which is a vital aspect of maintaining the comfort and quality of life of the person as they approach death.