No place for placebos

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A 65-year-old woman in the nursing home where I work has terminal liver cancer and uses patient-controlled analgesia for pain relief. She's told the staff many times that she wants more than anything to remain mentally alert to make the most of her final days. Unfortunately, she sleeps most of the time, even when her children and grandchildren are visiting.One of my colleagues wondered out loud whether the kindest way to help this woman would be to sometimes give her a placebo instead of morphine so she'd be clear mentally to take advantage of precious time with her family. What are the legal implications of such a switch?—K.D., MONT.

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