Using Palliative Sedation At End of Life

1 month ago

Dear Barbara, Will you discuss palliative sedation?

Palliative sedation is a term used by hospice, palliative care, and medical professionals to describe giving large doses of sleep-inducing medications to induce unconsciousness. It is a pain management technique used when all other pain management options have been unsuccessful. It is not routinely used. I would even say it is seldom used.

The National Cancer Institute defines palliative sedation as: “The use of special drugs called sedatives to relieve extreme suffering by making a patient calm, unaware, or unconscious. This may be done for patients who have symptoms that cannot be controlled with other treatments. Palliative sedation may be used in patients who are near the end of life to make them more comfortable. It is not meant to shorten life or cause death.” 

I found many other definitions (I love the internet), but this one was the easiest to understand and said what the others were saying but in much less technical detail.

When the terminal illness, the disease progression, has been a pain-filled experience and all comfort management options have been unsuccessful, then sleep is our friend. Sleep, created by regulated, supervised medications, is a compassionate alternative to uncontrollable suffering. 

Covid taught us the benefit of “putting a person to sleep” as their body heals. That same technique can also be used as end of life approaches. Not to accelerate the end of life process, but to provide comfort until death comes.

Something More… about Using Palliative Sedation At End of Life 

With today’s medical advancements there is no reason for a person to die in uncontrolled pain. If we are in extreme pain and suffering we cannot relax and peacefully leave our bodies. Reading Pain At End of Life helps families understand all the ways that a hospice team can ease pain with the dying.

Read More 

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Jordan M
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