The role of the principle of double effect in ethics education at US medical schools and its potential impact on pain management at the end of life

Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (3):174-178 (2012)
Abstract
Background Because opioids can suppress respiratory drive, the principle of double effect (PDE) has been used to justify their use for terminally ill patients. Recent studies, however, suggest that the risk of respiratory depression in typical end-of-life (EOL) situations may be overstated and that heightened concern for this rare occurrence can lead to inadequate treatment of pain. The purpose of this study is to examine the role of the PDE in medical school ethics education, with specific reference to its potential impact on pain management at EOL. Method After obtaining institutional review board approval, an electronic survey was sent to ethics educators at every allopathic medical school in the USA. Results One-third of ethics educators felt that opioids were ‘likely’ to cause significant respiratory depression that could hasten death. Educators' opinions of opioid effects did not influence their view of the relevance of the PDE, with approximately 70% deeming it relevant to EOL care. Only 15% of ethics educators believed that associating the PDE with opioid use might discourage clinicians from optimally treating pain, out of concern for respiratory depression. Conclusion This study demonstrates that a significant minority of ethics educators believe, contrary to current evidence, that opioids are ‘likely’ to cause significant respiratory depression that could hasten death in terminally ill patients. Yet, many of those who do not feel this is likely still rely on the PDE to justify this possibility, potentially (and unknowingly) contributing to clinical misperceptions and underutilisation of opioids at EOL
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 10,330
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Joseph Boyle (1991). Who is Entitled to Double Effect? Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 16 (5):475-494.
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2011-09-25

Total downloads

6 ( #195,517 of 1,096,584 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #153,658 of 1,096,584 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.