Not everyone finds a “salvific meaning” in suffering. Indeed, even those who do subscribe to this interpretation recognize the responsibility of each individual to show not only sensitivity and compassion but render assistance to those in distress. Pharmacologic hypnosis, morphine intoxication, and terminal sedation provide their own type of medical “salvation” to the terminally ill patient suffering unremitting pain. More and more states are enacting legislation that recognizes this need of the dying to receive relief through regulated administration of controlled substances. Wider legislative recognition of this need would go far toward allowing physicians, in the exercise of their reasonable medical judgment, to administer a range of narcotics and barbiturates to the terminally ill without fear of legal sanctions. Sadly, social attitudes and governmental concerns about the spread of drug addiction provide an undeniable policy nexus that impedes unduly a rational approach or exception for the treatment of pain experienced by the dying.
George P. Smith, II, Terminal Sedation as Palliative Care: Revalidating a Right to a Good Death, 7 CAMBRIDGE Q. HEALTHCARE ETHICS 382 (1998).