Robert Walker, MD
To the Editors: Schneiderman and colleagues' (1) formulation of medical futility weakens the physician's obligation to explore and consider the patient's goals for medical intervention. They argue that the physician alone should judge an intervention's chance of success and potential qualitative outcome. According to these authors, when either of these falls below a physician-defined threshold, the physician can conclude that the intervention provides no "medical" benefit, is "medically futile," and need not be offered to the patient.
This formulation ties physicians' obligations to an ancient, and now narrow, set of medical goals—goals that do not acknowledge the "physician's duty to
Walker R. Medical Futility. Ann Intern Med. ;114:169–170. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-114-2-169_2
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1991;114(2):169-170.
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