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Friday, October 10, 2014

When Medicine Is Futile

By Barron Lerner
The New York Times
Originally published September 18, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

The medical futility movement, which argued that doctors should be able to withhold interventions that they believed would merely prolong the dying process, did not experience great success. Physicians declaring things to be “futile” sounded too much like the old system of medical paternalism, in which doctors had made life-and-death decisions for patients by themselves. It was this mind-set that bioethics, appropriately, had sought to correct. Patients (or their families) were supposed to be in charge.

The problem was that the new system did not account for one thing: Patients often demanded interventions that had little or no chance of succeeding. And physicians, with ethicists and lawyers looking over their shoulders, and, at times, with substantial money to be made, provided them.