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Pain Management

Pain management is one of the most important aspects of care for terminally-ill persons. As with all health care issues, get qualified medical opinion regarding any suggested treatments. Pain management is a medical specialty. You have the right to obtain an opinion from a physician who specializes in pain management if your own physician seems unable or unwilling to provide adequate control for your pain.

It cannot be stressed enough that top-quality palliative care and pain management can make the difference between a gentle death and one in which suffering is so terrible and prolonged that assisted suicide becomes an attractive alternative. Our related page on death with dignity discusses the controversial topic of voluntary euthanasia, which may come under consideration when pain management is inadequate. Many leaders in the right-to-die movement agree that improvements in pain control would reduce the number of people who request assistance in hastening their own death.

Pain management is just one aspect of the more general medical specialty called palliative care. Palliative care may be delivered in hospice and home care settings or in hospitals. Because medical needs vary depending on the disease that is leading toward death, specialized palliative care programs exist for common conditions such as cancer, heart failure (CHF/COPD), end-stage renal disease, and AIDS. Aggressive pain management is a specialized topic of medicine and can be researched in major health care directories.

Handbook for Mortals

The Handbook for Mortals is the book order from we recommend most often for general public education about the end of life. You can read the full text online thanks to our friends at Americans for Better Care of the Dying.

Tutorial: Controlling pain
You can read a web-based tutorial on controlling pain at the end of life. It covers basic issues about types of pain and ways to treat pain, including the use of opioid medications like morphine. [Opens popup window]

Tutorial: How to talk with your physician about pain
You're more likely to get effective pain relief if you can describe your pain fully. Here are some tips on how to describe what you are experiencing. You may read this online [opens popup window], or music speaker icon listen to it in audio form. [Audio requires Microsoft Media Player]

Heart-to-Heart: Caring for the Dying

Heart-to-Heart: Beyond Pain

music speaker icon Listen to an 18-minute program on pain control that dispels common myths that many people -- including doctors -- have about pain medications. This segment explains how good pain management can help you keep going as best you can. But getting good pain management may be difficult due to poor physician training, concerns about drug addiction, and laws that can get in the way of needed pain medications. The extract is taken from the Heart-to-Heart: Caring for the Dying documentary series, which provides three hours of audio education on end-of-life care. [Audio requires Microsoft Media Player]

Improving Care at the End of Life

Improving Care for the End of Life is an authoritative guide to quality improvement methods for health care professionals. order from You can read the full text online thanks to our friends at The Washington Home Center for Palliative Care Studies.

Quality Improvement Sourcebook: Preventing, Assessing, and Treating Pain
You can read a web-based tutorial on quality improvement methods to deal with pain more effectively within your institution. [Opens popup window]

Pain and Symptom Management Learning Tools

Find full-text articles on pain.

Find web sites and books for pain.