Barbiturates in the Care of the Terminally Ill
Truog, Robert D.
Berde, Charles B.
Grier, Holcombe E.
New England Journal of Medicine. 1992 Dec 3; 327(23): 1678-1682.
Barbiturates are well known for their capacity to cause death reliably and painlessly and for their efficacy in producing unconsciousness before the administration of other lethal drugs....Physicians also administer barbiturates to the terminally ill without intending that they be used to cause the death of the patient. Even in these circumstances, however, the unavoidable side effects of the drugs may hasten the patient's death, and care givers may be uncertain about whether their actions will be viewed as killing or caring. In this article, we review situations in which the nonlethal use of barbiturates may be indicated and discuss situations in which their administration can be morally justified. We also provide practical advice for the use of these agents.
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