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Sweet dreams

One in four cancer patients suffers unnecessarily painful death because the medical profession is still reluctant to prescribe morphine-mistakenly viewed as a dangerous addictive drug. John McVicar witnessed how his terminally ill mother was denied her right to an easy end and advises us on how to plan our own deaths

By John McVicar   February 1996

When I was upset as a child my mother consoled me with the words “Never mind, nothing lasts for ever.” Sometimes she would add sotto voce: “Except death.” Death is final, but passing through nature to eternity can be heavenly or hellish. One of the most odious paradoxes of modern medicine is that the same medical practices which are enabling more of us to live longer are also responsible for condemning a significant minority of us to an unnecessarily painful death. The problem is that too many doctors are over-treating the diseases of the dying, often thereby under-treating death’s most…

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