Morphine kills pain — not patients

Contact: Judy Erickson
media.inquiries@sagepub.com
SAGE Publications
Research published in Palliative Medicine from SAGE

Many people, including health care workers, believe that morphine is a lethal drug that causes death when used to control pain for a patient who is dying. That is a misconception according to new research published in the latest issue of Palliative Medicine, from SAGE Publications.

Two articles in the peer-reviewed journal address research led by Professor Bassam Estfan of The Taussig Cancer Center in which patients in a specialist palliative care in-patient unit with severe cancer pain were treated with morphine, a type of opioid. Their vital statistics were monitored before and after the pain was controlled and there were no significant changes. Morphine did not cause respiratory depression, the mechanism by which lethal opioid overdose typically kills.

“Unlike many other drugs, morphine has a very wide safety margin,” wrote Dr Rob George, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, from the University College London, in his commentary about the research. “Evidence over the last 20 years has repeatedly shown that, used correctly, morphine is well tolerated, does not cloud the mind, does not shorten life, and its sedating effects wear off quickly. This is obviously good for patients in pain.”

“There is no evidence to suggest that morphine is a killer,” Dr George continued. “It could be perceived that not to give it is an act of brutality. We urge those in the medical community to understand the facts about morphine and other opioids – it’s time to set the record straight. Doctors should feel free to manage pain with doses adjusted to individual patients so that the patients can be comfortable and be able to live with dignity until they die.”

The articles, “Respiratory function during parenteral opioid titration for cancer pain” and, “Commentary: Lethal Opioids or dangerous prescribers?,” published by SAGE in the March issue of Palliative Medicine, are available at no charge for a limited time at http://pmj.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/21/2/81 and http://pmj.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/21/2/77.
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About SAGE

SAGE Publications is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology and medicine. A privately owned corporation, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, and Singapore. www.sagepublications.com

About Palliative Medicine

Palliative Medicine is an international interdisciplinary journal dedicated to improving knowledge and clinical practice in the palliative care of patients with far advanced disease. It reflects the multidisciplinary approach that is the hallmark of effective palliative care. http://pmj.sagepub.com/

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Folllowing Rick Usher's death in December 2008, at his request in September of that year, I had agreed, as his principal contributor and an experienced journalist, to run the FMS Global News service due to his heavy commitments to music and raising research funds through this avenue. Following his sad and sudden death I hope to continue his work as he would have wished.
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