October 31 2016
Written By
Barbara Karnes
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Dangers of Morphine for the Dying

Dangers of Morphine for the Dying


Barbara - October 13 2019

Hi Gaby, in response to your challenge with your physician, your pain, and morphine. This country’s opioid crisis has had a serious affect on those people that are using narcotics in a serious, appropriate way. Many, not all, physicians are “running scared” about prescribing narcotics. It appears your physician is one of those people. Because Kaiser is your medical provider you have limited choices of getting another physician but you might try going up the chain of command explaining your situation to this physician’s boss. I would think you can request, even demand, a different physician. If I have read your letter correctly your pain is controlled by the CBD. It is the shortness of breath that you are asking the morphine for. It doesn’t take very much morphine to ease the breathing difficulty. I would think that is a medical help and a legitimate reason to prescribe.
Blessings! Barbara

Gaby Weddle - October 13 2019

I have end stage copd and have also been on morphine for the last 10 years for severe lower spine degeneration. The morphine had stopped helping with the pain and my doctor at Kaiser wouldn’t increase the dosage so I started using CBD and that helped immensely. Now my doctor has refused me the morphine because the cbd showed up in a urine test. Now my breathing is labored all the time and I am going down hill much faster. Why would a doctor who has taken an oath to do no harm do this. It is harming me and making the time I have left miserable. Isn’t there something I can do about this? Gaby Weddle

Barbara - April 13 2019

Hi Corrina, your question “Is it dangerous to give morphine every hour?” is one I can’t answer. Pain management, particularly pain management at end of life is so individualized I would have to have more information about your cousin’s medical history. What I can say is our goal in working with end of life pain is to keep the person comfortable. If pain was an issue in the disease (and a lot of cancers, including the kind your cousin had, produce pain) then we address that pain with medication right up until the moment of death. I hope this information puts your mind at ease. You might want to talk with the hospice nurse and ask her your questions. Even though your cousin has died you can still call hospice and ask your questions. My blessings are with you. Barbara

Corrina Slade - April 13 2019

My Cousin passed away yesterday at 12:30 a.m ..i was there with her and left at 9:30 p.m before she passed …i arrive there at her house at 6 that evening the whole time i was there she was administered morphine every hour on the hour by her daughter following the Hospice nurse directions…it really didn’t sit right with me but those were the directions from the hospice nurse….my question is….is it dangerous to give morphine every hour??? Oh by the way..she was fighting cancer..she was diagnosed 3 wks ago..lesions in the brain and found mass on her lung n liver…

Barbara - December 11 2018

Hi Marta, when a person is not experiencing pain I see no reason to give them a narcotic or any kind of medication as a pain reliever. If there is breathing difficulties a small amount of morphine may ease the breathing but that doesn’t seem to be the issue here. The family can certainly tell the hospice nurse they are not comfortable with the use of morphine, at this time. We need to remember any agency, physician or healthcare professional works for the family and patient. Their opinion matters. We just want to make sure the opinion comes from knowledge and not fear and/or ignorance. Blessings! Barbara

Marta - December 11 2018

I am taking care of a patient in her last days/weeks of Alzheimer’s. She is not in pain, she is comfortable and her vital signs are steady, she has no issues with breathing. She still eats and drinks and eliminates pretty much regularly. Family decided to put her on hospice just few days ago. Hospice nurse instantly suggested giving her morphine. I do not see a need for it just yet. Does family have to agree to administering morphine immediately or can they wait till their mom actually would benefit from it to help her with peaceful passing?

Patricia - November 25 2018

Very informative information husband has non treatable cholangiocarcinoma ,due to too many other health issues.He hasn’t shown any systems yet ,I plan an appointment with a hospice nurse to come to the house and speak with us and your prior information for me to read is very helpful.I have ordered 4 booklets from you and eagerly awaiting their arrival! My husband is almost 89 and though he doesn’t speak of the disease he has shown remarkable strength !!

Barbara Karnes - February 03 2018

Hi Mary, I do not have enough medical information to comment on the morphine and its affects on your husbands body and breathing. I do know it is unsettling to watch death approach and the helplessness that accompanies those moments can stay with us for quite awhile.
My blessings are with you. Barbara

Mary Cantrell - January 18 2018

But what is a small dose to you? My husband was on his last breath yes I had hospice but she gave him a full syringe full of morphine when he started labor breathing about 45 min later Agen a full dose full syringe full. Now what’s up with that? He didn’t look relaxed?!!

Patti Zeimet-Jones - January 11 2018

Thank goodness for Morphine. Watching someone suffer from air hunger is frightening. A small dose of morphine settles this down quite nicely.

President Northeast Oklahoma Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.

Nancy - January 08 2018

My husband has been on hospice care going on eight months. My brother moved in with us 5 yrs ago and now helps me with my husband. He fell at a rehab facility and had been bedridden since, he had a subdural hematoma (stroke), he isn’t in pain and I am very thankful. I have read your books, watched your dvd.. and read all your emails. I can talk about death to him today but he may not remember the conversation tomorrow. Thank you for your posts.


Barbara Karnes - December 13 2017

Hi Janna, Make sure now while you are healthy that your physician has in your medical record that you are allergic to Morphine. There are allergic bracelets that you can get (at drug stores?) to wear. Also put it in your Advanced Directive and POLST. Blessings! Barbara

Janna Karsjens - December 11 2017

I placed my husband on hospice/palliative care three days before his death. He had been in the nursing home for 2 months prior, supposedly for rehabilitative therapy after suffering a 2nd stroke. Unfortunately, he would get agitated every time he ran a fever. As his cognitive abilities decreased, the agitation increased. The palliative care nurse(s) recommended use of morphine to keep him relaxed and I’m very glad they did, because not only did it relax him, but it also helped me relax knowing that he was in no pain and was not suffering.

My biggest concern, should I ever be placed in hospice/palliative care, is that the nurses and doctors pay attention to noted medication allergies. I am allergic to morphine; I break out in a nasty itchy rash and become agitated, not calm. I would hope they would choose another medication to help me relax.

Patti Urban - November 04 2017

As an end of life doula, I also agree that a small dose of morphine can have a good effect on someone who is experiencing labored breathing. It really does make a difference.

Melissa - November 04 2017

My husband had COPD and he took morphine on a regular basis for a year before he passed. His last dose of morphine was just moments before he passed. His last request was that we not let him suffocate. He went peacefully.

Maureen Asper - August 06 2017

As a palliative care nurse, I can’t agree more with the use of morphine with terminal patients. Used properly morphine allows the patient to relax and will also address pain and shortness of breath effectively. A little bit can make a huge difference between a peaceful death compared to the last moments of life filled with anxiety and fear. It is also the drug of choice when shortness of breath becomes burdensome. It is a God-send for those suffering from COPD. Please don’t be afraid to try a small dose if your doctor suggests it.

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