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Odds and Ends: Trust and the Debate over Medical Futility

Arthur L. Caplan, PhD
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University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104 Requests for Reprints: Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania, 3401 Market Street, Room 320, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1996;125(8):688-689. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-125-8-199610150-00010
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Much of what passes for methodology in bioethics goes by the name of conceptual analysis. Or, to put it another way, bioethicists spend much of their time arguing about the precise meanings of words. Persons who do not have the temperament or the patience for such verbal dissection use less flattering, albeit more colorful, descriptions, in which images of heads located in clouds or dances done on the head of a pin (or worse) loom large. The ongoing wrangling about the concept of medical futility [1] is a perfect example of why some find bioethics valuable and others do not.

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