Abstract 摘要

Pain control is one of the most important goals of end-of-life care for cancer patients in the terminal phase. The World Health Organization recommends that morphine be considered optimal and even indispensable as a means of relieving pain and providing palliative care. However, people often associate this opioid with illicit drugs, particularly in the context of Chinese culture, due to its close association with the two Anglo–Chinese Opium Wars of the mid-19th century. In clinical settings, morphine is usually the preferred treatment for moderate or severe cancer-related pain. However, excessive morphine use may result in respiratory depression and death. Exploring morphine’s history and clinical usage, relevant policies, and Confucian ethics, this essay shows that a clear distinction must be made between relieving pain and performing active euthanasia in cases of morphine use in current Chinese palliative care and bioethics. The essay offers an approach based on Confucian ethics to analyze how euthanasia via morphine use violates the principles of filial piety (xiao) and humaneness (ren), two virtues emphasized in Confucian tradition.