For many years there has been a question as to whether or not providing pain medication to a dying patient is ethical or not. This subject practices on what is considered morally ethical as well as medically ethical. Allowing a person to sit in pain at the end of life, hits as both medically and morally unethical. Especially, when health care professionals can manage and control the pain. There are many medical ethics principles as well as the directives that apply from the Catholic religion side of it. Some of the principles that will be discussed are the principle of double effect, informed consent, veracity, beneficence, non-malfeasance, extraordinary versus ordinary means, and proportionate and disproportionate means.
This paper is going to discuss the ethical implications regarding the barriers that are encountered when administering pain medications to patients that are in the last part of the dying phase. It is my position that patients that are dying should receive pain medication as desired and expressed by the patient. The pain medications should be administered and titrated accordingly to maintain the appropriate therapeutic level to allow the patient to maintain his or her dignity.
There are several barriers that arise when providing pain relief in the dying patient. The barriers include failure of clinicians to identify pain relief as a priority in patient care, insufficient knowledge among clinicians about the assessment and management of pain, fear of regulatory scrutiny of prescribing practices for opioid analgesics, failure of the healthcare system to hold clinicians accountable for pain relief, the persistence of irrational beliefs and unsubstantiated fears about addiction, tolerance, dependence, and adverse effects of opioids, and the resistance of patients and/or their family members to the use of opioid analgesics in the management of pain (Rich, 2000). The most common barrier is under treatment due to fear of hastening death.
Assessing pain and the administration of pain medication in the dying client is very important. This nursing assessment is vital through all aspects of life but is also very important in the end of life to try and maintain as much of a person’s autonomy and dignity as possible. AS in life people who are dying must also be able to have and make choices surrounding the way in which they choose to spend that last portion of their life. Before getting down to the ethical concerns of pain and pain management, it is important to define what pain is and how it is assessed.
Pain and suffering is often linked together and some even use it interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. Pain is considered a negative and unpleasant sensory felt by the person that is inhibitory to the comfort of the person, it is considered to be mainly physical in nature (Kelly, 2004). Suffering is considered to be roughly the same as pain but the effects are more geared towards a person’s spirituality and mentality (Kelly, 2004). The way in which people experience pain and suffering is different from person to person. Pain is a subjective experience and is to be assessed on an individual basis.