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Medical Malpractice/Morphine was given to a patient with Aspiration Pnemonia


QUESTION: My father was admitted to a hospital with Aspiration Pnemonia from nose tube feeding;  the doctor told my sister she needs to cut a hole on his neck for breathing and another hole on his stochmach for feeding or he can be put for comfort care with 1 ml/hour morphine for a few hours he will die.  We decided to go for comofort care because our father was diagnosed with Ischemic Stroke and diabetic.  After 3 and a half days of 1 ml/hour morphine our father did not die and then the morphine was increased to 3ml/hour for a few hours then he died.  I would like to know whether with 80 hours of morhine is killing my father or really giving him the comfort? Our father did not have fever may be the Aspiration Pnemonia is not so severe on his last day I saw the breathing tube fell from his nose and he can breath on his own I like to know morphine has killed my father?

ANSWER: Patricia,

Your father was terminally ill and it sounds as if the physician was trying to ease his suffering.

The morphine was for palliative care and not therapeutic.  The purpose of prescribing the morphine was to eliminate pain and anxiety instead of being used to provide treatment for the pneumonia.  The secondary effect of morphine is that inhibits breathing and can hasten one's death.

Very truly yours,

Paul D. Friedman, M.A., Ph.D., J.D.

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QUESTION: His girl friend has begged me to stop the morphine;  she felt my father has a very strong body he can fight for his life; with morphine it will depress his Brain and numb his nervous system it will disable him from fighting for his life;  after 80 hours of morphine I am kind of regret not to listen to his girl friend's request.  Without morphine I wonder he can cough off the substance from his lung and survive?


Without knowing or treating your father, it sounds as if he had a terminal illness and the physician prescribed the morphine for his comfort.  By providing the morphine, you eased your father's illness and made him more comfortable.  It sounds as if it was unlikely he would respond and survive and so the secondary adverse effect of morphine may have been outweighed by the comfort the drug provided.

Very truly yours,

Paul D. Friedman, M.A., Ph.D., J.D.  

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Paul D. Friedman, M.A., Ph.D., J.D.


I have been a practicing civil trial attorney since 1989 dealing primarily with malpractice issues. I litigate very select medical malpractice cases on behalf of patients or their families. I am a Certified Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. I am also Certified in Injury and Wrongful Death by the Arizona State Bar Board of Legal Specialization.

In addition to my law degree, I received a Master of Arts in Bioethics and a Doctorate of Philosophy involving Medical Ethics. Because I am also an Adjunct Professor in Research and Medical Ethics at a medical school, I routinely consult with physicians and hospitals regarding medical ethics issues in an effort to improve patient care.

I can answer questions dealing with medical ethics principles. I can also respond to questions regarding potential malpractice issues.

For more information, you can view my website at WWW.EXPERTETHICS.COM


I have been a practicing trial attorney since 1989 and I have a masters degree in bioethics and a doctorate of philosophy regarding comparative ethics.

State Bar of Arizona
State Bar of Colorado (inactive)
District of Columbia Bar (inactive)
Federal Bar
Licensed in Arizona District Court
Licensed in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
licensed in the United States Supreme Court
American Bar Association
National Board of Trial Advocacy
American Association for Justice
Arizona Trial Lawyers Association
American Society for Bioethics and Humanities
Kennedy Institute of Ethics
National Association of Realtors

A list of my copyrighted publications and presentations is contained at WWW.EXPERTETHICS.COM

Bachelor of Arts 1985
Juris Doctorate 1989
Master of Arts in Bioethics 2004
Doctorate of Philosophy 2006

Awards and Honors
Phi Beta Kappa
Multiple Who's Who
Southwest Superlawyers
Top 100 Trial Lawyers
AZ Magazine Top Lawyers

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