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Morphine: a comfort measure for the dying or pain control for the living?
Date:12/10/2007

Cancer patients are suffering unnecessarily because they wrongly believe that morphine and other opioids are only used as comfort for the dying and as a last resort rather than seeing them as legitimate pain killers that can improve their quality of life.

In a study published online today (Tuesday 11 December) in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology [1], experts in palliative care also say the belief that opioids hasten death is widely held amongst patients and this has a significant impact on pain management, as patients felt that an offer of opioids signified imminent death. Previous studies have estimated that between 40-70% of cancer patients may not have their pain properly controlled with the right medication for a variety of reasons.

Dr Colette Reid, the lead author of the study, said: If we are to employ the range of available opioids in order to successfully manage pain caused by cancer, we must ensure that morphine does not remain inextricably linked with death. If this connection stays in place then morphine will continue to be viewed as a comfort measure for the dying rather than a means of pain control for the living.

Dr Reid, a consultant in palliative medicine at the Gloucester Royal Hospital, Gloucester, UK, conducted in-depth interviews with 18 patients with metastatic cancer, aged between 55 and 82, who were asked to take part in a cancer pain management trial. She wanted to examine how patients reacted when first offered an opioid drug described as similar to morphine. Dr Reid also wanted to understand the factors that influenced patients decisions whether to accept or to reject morphine. The interviews were analysed along with an experienced social scientist Rachael Gooberman-Hill, and Geoffrey Hanks, professor of palliative medicine, both from the University of Bristol.

The patients interviewed were all white and half of them were women. Their views and experiences about morphine fell into four distinct
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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@mac.com
44-077-112-96986
European Society for Medical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3 4

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