Pain control is one of the central goals of hospice care. Most patients and families who use hospice services expect that the hospice will make every effort to relieve the pain which afflicts their loved one. From the legal standpoint, the federal guidelines regulating hospice require the hospice to make every reasonable effort to assure that the patient’s pain is controlled. Most state laws governing hospice also make pain control a primary and required component of hospice care.
Using hospice services will, in most cases, assure that the patient receives the pain medications needed to control his pain: the hospice Interdisciplinary Team and the hospice RN case manager are focussed on making sure the patient is comfortable.
In the terminally ill patient’s case, there is no basis for any fear about “becoming addicted” to a narcotic given for pain. Although many individuals have strong beliefs about avoiding “drugs,” the legal use of narcotic medications for pain is totally appropriate and a welcome relief from the severe pain which plagues certain patients. Addiction is a problem only for those who are not dying.
The terminally ill patient who suffers from terrible pain needs these medications to relieve that pain. Using narcotic medications for the terminally ill patient is truly compassionate and humane. It is for this purpose that such narcotic medications exist! Nobody should feel ashamed about taking such medications to ease the pain of a terminal illness, and nobody has the right to deny a patient these medications when they need them. The severity of pain some patients experience is quite mild, while others experience the most excruciating levels of pain. Modern medical science can effectively treat most pain and keep the patient comfortable. If a patient is still painful, the physician needs to be consulted immediately for adjustments or changes of medication, or for other treatments for pain.