Am I violating the 5th Commandment?

I am a registered nurse working on a dementia unit. Fairly often, I take care of the dying on Hospice. The standard protocol to keep someone comfortable is giving them morphine. Morphine, while a painkiller, helps relax an individual who is suffering and make them comfortable while they are dying. It also suppresses the respiratory system.

Quite often, I have given morphine to someone who’s death is imminent. Several minutes after the morphine has taken effect, the person relaxes, stops breathing and passes away.

So here’s my dilemma. I know the reason for the morphine is to ease their suffering and take away their pain, but am I also killing them? I know that they’re dying already, and no one should have to suffer in their death, I just feel like in a way I’m commiting euthanasia, which I know is against the Church’s teaching. Am I just overthinking this?

the church allows morphine for easing of pain, as i understand it. but you should seek counsel from someone literate on the subject in the context you present it. i would rely on opinion. i have heard a doctor on catholic answers with pat coffin, who is an expert in catholic medicine. perhaps you can find out who it is and get some literature. you are doing God’s work, God bless you!

Does the morphine kill them or hasten their death? If so, yes you are violating the 5th commandment. If not, no you are not. There is nothing wrong with taking away the pain of someone who is dying, but there is something wrong with causing their death (even if they are dying anyways). For example, if someone is lying on the side of the road suffering and obviously dying, I can’t morally pull out a revolver and “end their suffering.” However, I could pull out a flask of whiskey and ease their suffer as they die. It all depends on whether giving the morphine ends the person’s life or not.

There must be a dose which will ease the person’s pain without stopping their breathing. Consult the doctor and a priest.

This from the Catechism of the Catholic Church may help:
2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.
As I understand that passage, it is okay if the intention is to make living more bearable, even though it carries the risk of hastening the patient’s death. It may be immoral if the intention is to hasten death.

No. You are providing the drug to alleviate pain, not with the intention of taking life.

Thanks everyone. This makes me feel better. It’s just rather unnerving when they pass away moments after the med administration. After reading the cathecism, this makes more sense. The dose given is never a lethal amount, just enough for comfort. It’s rather hard to explain. When it has happened to me, you can tell the individual is struggling and fighting so much to hang on, but the morphine relaxes them and eases their breathing. It’s usually in that moment when death occurs.

I found this from the British Journal of Medicine. It’s a myth! :hug3: I feel so relieved!

It seems double effect applies:

Administering morphine is not in itself an immoral act.
There is no intention to cause death.
Death by lowered respiration caused by morphine is an indirect cause
The increased risks as a consequence of lowered respiration is proportional to the alleviating of pain.

If you gave penicillin to someone and they ended up having an allergic reaction, would you feel that you had deliberately caused their death?

The important word is deliberate.

Morphine is used to comfort the dying. It is the doctor who decides the dosage, you are just following his instructions.

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