When a loved one is dying and in pain, is it okay for doctors to give them painkillers that inadvertently shorten their life? What is the Church’s teaching on pain control to the point of becoming unconscious for an end-of-life situation?
In Catholic moral theology there is a principle called “double effect.” This principal states that an action that has two effects - one good and one bad - is permissible if the following are true:
In some situations it may be necessary to sedate dying patients in order to relieve their pain. In such situations the secondary effects of the drugs used may hasten the death of the individual. This secondary effect may be permitted if the above listed principles are fulfilled. Pain management for a dying person is permissible for the following reasons:
A patient may be rendered unconscious only if there is no other reasonable way to achieve pain relief. However, should that be the option that is left, it is indeed perfectly moral. Please keep this principle in mind when you are caring for loved ones who are dying.
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