Heroin in the hospice : opioids and end-of-life discussions in the 1980s

Richert, Lucas (2017) Heroin in the hospice : opioids and end-of-life discussions in the 1980s. CMAJ, 189 (39). E1231-E1232. ISSN 1488-2329

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    Abstract

    At the end of the 1970s, a Toronto-based celebrity doctor and syndicated columnist, Kenneth Walker, who wrote under the pseudonym W. Gifford Jones, launched a campaign to legalize heroin (diamorphine). In his view, it was one answer to the problem of treating end-of-life pain in Canadian society. This ignited debates about patient-consumer choice in the medical marketplace and heroin as a valid analgesic. While this remains a largely untold story, heroin use in the hospice was thoroughly infused with politics, social values and cultural norms of the time. His story embodies how the politics of pain, opioid addiction, and proper end-of-life therapies present enduring challenges in a modern democratic society.