Indian Journal of Palliative Care
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 PRACTITIONER SECTION
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 160--165

Use of opioids and sedatives at End-of-Life


Department of Palliative Medicine, National Cancer Center, Singapore 11 Hospital Drive, Singapore

Correspondence Address:
Shin Wei Sim
Department of Palliative Medicine, National Cancer Center, Singapore 11 Hospital Drive
Singapore
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0973-1075.132654

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Despite their proven efficacy and safety, opioid and sedative use for palliation in patients afflicted with cancer in Singapore have been shown to be a fraction of that in other countries. This paper explores the various psychosocial and system-related factors that appear to propagate this conservative approach to care in what is largely a western-influenced care practice. A search for publications relating to sedative and opioid usage in Asia was performed on PubMed, Google, Google Scholar, World Health Organization, and Singapore's government agency websites using search terms such as "opioids," "sedatives," "palliation," "end-of-life-care," "pain management," "palliative care," "cancer pain," "Asia," "Singapore," and "morphine." Findings were classified into three broad groups - system-related, physician-related, and patient-related factors. A cautious medico-legal climate, shortage of physicians trained in palliative care, and lack of instruments for symptom assessment of patients at the end of life contribute to system-related barriers. Physician-related barriers include delayed access to palliative care due to late referrals, knowledge deficits in non-palliative medicine physicians, and sub-optimal care provided by palliative physicians. Patients' under-reporting of symptoms and fear of addiction, tolerance, and side effects of opioids and sedatives may lead to conservative opioid use in palliative care as well. System-related, physician-related, and patient-related factors play crucial roles in steering the management of palliative patients. Addressing and increasing the awareness of these factors may help ensure patients receive adequate relief and control of distressing symptoms.






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