Medical Futility

1461 Words 6 Pages
Making the decision whether or not to treat patients with medical interventions that could prolong life, which may or may not be beneficial, is an extremely difficult decision. Medical futility or futility of care is a controversial topic with legal, ethical, and moral implications. In order to begin the process for making this decision, a nationally recognized definition should be established and the legal, ethical, and moral implications must be considered.
History of Medical Futility
Schneiderman (2011) states the concept of medical futility dates back as far as Hippocrates. Hippocrates claimed when a condition cannot be adequately treated by available treatments, the physician must not expect the condition can be overcome by medicine
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Therefore, one could deduct futility of care to mean medical treatment that has no benefit. However, there is no universal definition for futility of care in the medical community. Schneiderman, Jecker, & Jonsen (1990) propose treatment should be regarded as futile when physicians determine through personal experience, experiences shared with colleagues, or consideration of published empiric data that in the last 100 cases a medical treatment has been useless. A treatment, which only preserves permanent unconsciousness or cannot end dependence on intensive medical care, should be considered futile (Schneiderman, Jecker, & Jonsen, …show more content…
When further intervention to prolong the life of a patient becomes futile, physicians have an obligation to shift the intent of care toward comfort and closure. (p. 1)
The social, legal, and ethical issues of medical futility have been debated over the past few decades. More recently, the moral issues have been explored. Ferrell (2006) claims participation in medically futile efforts creates moral distress that is destructive to nurses and the nursing profession. Participation also undermines the core of nursing practice.
Ferrell (2006) provides an example of the moral implications. Imagine a 34-year-old female healthcare professional that was transferred to the intensive care unit from a medical oncology unit who is known by the intensive care nurses. She was diagnosed with leukemia recently, had received a difficult, intensive course of chemotherapy, and experienced remission. Her family and friend were relieved she was able to beat the cancer. When her life was finally getting back to normal, the patient experienced recurrent

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