It’s easy to see how the notion of morphine bringing death sooner to someone who’s dying came about. We can blame creative outlets like movies and books and also the lived experiences of some people who report seeing their loved ones’ lives slip away while on the opioid.
But morphine, when administered correctly, can bring a lot of relief and improve the end-of-life experience of someone, mainly because it blocks pain signals and helps with a lot of distressing sensations someone might be feeling in the final moments before death (per Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care), like shortness of breath, pain, restlessness, and agitation.
Palliative care professionals are well-versed in how to start, sustain, and increase (when needed) morphine dosage according to the requirements and comfort levels of their patients (per Canadian Virtual Hospice). When someone is first put on the narcotic, the dose is very low and this dosage is maintained until the person gets used to it. Only a large dose can prove harmful (a fatal overdose might require 200 milligrams). That being said, morphine, like other pain medications, comes with its own set of side effects like drowsiness, digestive issues, stomach cramps, and weight loss (per Mayo Clinic). As explained by Elisabeth Smith from Hospice of the Chesapeake, sometimes suffering can prolong death too and it can look like the person passed away sooner when morphine was administered to them, simply because their discomfort was taken away and death was allowed to come in its own time.