Medical Treatment Futility

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Should doctors be able to refuse demands for "futile" treatment? "Futile" treatment is when there is no medical benefit from the treatment they are receiving, and that there will be no improvement if they are in a permanent vegetative state. Although the concept of medical futility dates back in the Ancient Greek days with physician Hippocrates, it has only recently (in the past 40 years) become a controversial topic. The issue of medical futility is important because it deals with many issues such as patient-physician relationship, financial resources, and most importantly it deals with lives of people. The issues are controversial because it has alarmed many people that physicians may be taking it a step too far being able to pull the plug on a person with an incapacitating condition. The debate is over who has the right to make this decision - the patient's family or physician. There are two sides to this debate; the "Yes" side says that the physician is more qualified and is following what the patient's want to receive while the "No" side says that it should not be up to the physician to decide if the life is worth keeping or not.

Steven Miles supports the idea that doctors should be able to refuse futile medical treatment. He maintains that physicians should be able to refuse futile medical treatment because it takes up too many resources, violates community standards, and it follows patient's wishes when what they expect is not what the treatment can achieve. The example used in the book is the case of Helga Wanglie, an 85 year old woman who was placed on a respirator. She was unconscious and unable to make a decision whether to end her life or not, so it would be either the family's decision or the physician's decision. The cost was a huge factor; Medicare was paying $200,000 to keep Mrs. Wanglie alive while a private insurer was paying $500,000. Steven Miles argues that this money could be better spent on patients that could receive more appropriate...
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