To relieve or to terminate? A Confucian ethical reflection on the use of morphine for late-stage cancer patients in China

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
Journal / PublicationDeveloping World Bioethics
Issue number3
Online published11 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


Morphine is usually preferred to treat moderate or severe pain for late-stage cancer patients. However, medically unindicated or excessive morphine use may result in respiratory depression and death. This essay contends that a clear distinction between relieving pain and performing active euthanasia in the use of morphine should be made in practice. By drawing on Confucian virtue resources, we construct a Confucian conception of human dignity, including both intrinsic and acquired dignity, to analyze the circumstances of morphine use in current China. We argue that not only the Confucian view of intrinsic dignity but also that of acquired dignity would not support morphine euthanasia.

Research Area(s)

  • acquired dignity, Confucian bioethics, intrinsic dignity, morphine euthanasia, pain