Bioethics Blogs

Medical Futility Disputes and “Balance Sheets”

A key argument for withdrawing a patient’s life-sustaining medical treatment over a surrogate’s wishes is that the burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits.  While this cannot really be reduced to a mathematical calculation, I have seen hospitals increasingly submit tables and charts that specify these burdens and benefits in columns and rows.  This has happened in several of the futility cases (aka non-beneficial treatment, potentially inappropriate treatment cases) decided in the UK over the past two months.

While tables and charts should not supplant other narrative and testimony, this is a good development.  Judges seem to find this useful.  And it surely helps the hospital clinicians better and more concretely articulate and clarify why they judge the requested treatment to be non-beneficial.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.