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photo Morphine on Trial
By Vishnu Mathur
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Physician Frank Adams was working at the Arlington, Texas, Cancer Center when armed agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration arrived to arrest him. His confidential patient files were searched, he was indicted and threatened with the loss of his medical license. His offense: prescribing narcotics to patients suffering from severe chronic pain.

Morphine and its derivatives have for centuries been known to be effective treatments for pain, yet their use is complicated by the fact that they can also be addictive. Moreover, the physiology of chronic pain has not been well understood: sufferers have too often been dismissed as neurotic, or told to "learn to live with it." With the growth of the hospice movement, and a widespread new societal focus on end-of-life care, has come the understanding that patients do not have to die in pain. Yet the lessons learned with terminally ill patients have not been as widely applied to otherwise healthy people living with severe chronic pain.

Today we know that effective pain management using opioid drugs can provide dignity and relief to people whose lives were being destroyed by unmanageable pain. Still, the wider use of opioids remains controversial. This provocative documentary explores contrasting experiences in the U.S. and Canada through the views of a wide range of medical and nursing specialists, as well as through the eyes of their patients.

56 minutes
© 2002
Purchase $199 DVD
Order No. QA-352

Awards & Conference Screenings
International Health & Medical Film Competition

Related Films
Your Options for Pain Relief in Childbirth: An entertaining and informative look at the options available for pain management, including their pros and cons and the roles of the various health professionals involved.

Caring at the End of Life: Based on six case studies of seriously ill hospitalized patients, this moving film focuses on the key roles of nursing staff in improving patient-clinician communication in end-of-life care.

Self Deliverance: This unflinching portrait was filmed in Australia's Northern Territory, where Parliament was debating the world's first legislation guaranteeing terminally ill people the right to a physician-assisted death. It includes articulate testimony from physicians on both sides of this controversial issue, but its primary focus is on one courageous man's determination to confront death in his own way.

Common Heroes: Follows the nurses, physicians, social workers and clergy who make up the hospice team, and demonstrates the ways they collaborate to help patients and families.

The Journey Home: The candid stories of five patients exemplify the unique gifts of hope, relief, and dignity that hospice care programs offer to thousands of terminally ill patients each year.

Awards & Screenings

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