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Pharmacotherapy During the End of Life: Caring for the Actively Dying Patient

Author(s): Jonathan G. Leung, PharmD, BCPS, BCPP, Sarah Nelson, PharmD, BCPS, Megan Leloux, PharmD, BCPP

Contact Hours 1.25

CERP A 1.25

Pharmacology Hours 1.25

Expires Apr 01, 2018

Topics: Palliative/End-of-life Care, Pharmacology

Population: Adult

Role: APRN, Staff

Member: Free
NonMember: $10.00

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Activity Summary

Knowledge of pharmacotherapy interventions provided at the end of life is crucial to optimize care of actively dying patients. As the objective of care shifts from life-prolonging measures toward comfort measures, several challenges may arise. The use of less-familiar medications, barriers to medication administration, and inappropriate pharmacotherapy at the end of life can have deleterious results. Although goals of treatment may vary between patients, some issues related to end-of-life symptom management are common. These issues include, but are not limited to, the management of pain, death rattle/hypersecretion, delirium, agitation, and dyspnea. The ability to recognize end-of-life symptoms allows the health care professional to avoid a delay in providing maximal patient comfort. This column discusses barriers to medication administration and pharmacological agents that can be used to manage actively dying patients.


  • Define common end-of-life issues.
  • Identify therapies to manage those issues.
  • Understand medication administration challenges in the dying.

Continuing Education Disclosure Statement

Successful Completion

Learners must attend/view/read the entire activity and complete the associated evaluation to be awarded the contact hours or CERP. No partial credit will be awarded.


This activity has been reviewed by the Nurse Planner. It has been determined that the material presented here shows no bias. Approval of a continuing education activity does not imply endorsement by AACN or ANCC of any commercial products displayed or discussed in conjunction with the activity.


The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC's) Commission on Accreditation, ANCC Provider Number 0012 (60 min contact hour). AACN has been approved as a provider of continuing education in nursing by the California State Board of Nursing, California Provider number CEP01036 for 1.5 contact hours (50 min contact hour).

AACN programming meets the standards for most states that require mandatory continuing education contact hours for license and/or certification renewal. AACN recommends consulting with your state board of nursing or credentialing organization before submitting CE to fulfill continuing education requirements.