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Drugs in the treatment of the dying

‘Let me go quietly’ - George Washington


The doctor's care of the dying includes not only support of the family but also the use of various drugs to relieve any terminal distress. Such treatment does not aim to prolong life, and still less to prolong dying, but to relieve the patient and to help the relatives, who will remember vividly the moment of death. Relief must continue to the end, not to drug the patient into insensibility but to allow death to come easily and quietly. Many patients understand what is happening as death comes near but if they are well cared for they are not afraid. Attendants or visitors who are anxious about death may need more reassurance than the patient himself.

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  • * This article discusses problems of treatment in patients who are dying in a matter of days, or at most within two or three weeks. It does not attempt to deal with the general management of terminal disease. 2