Who Will Teach Us to Die?: Reflections on Futility and Finitude

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 60 (3):336-339 (2018)
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Abstract

Schneiderman, Jecker, and Jonsen have written an eloquent essay that both defends the concept of medical futility and describes their own candidate for a practical, working definition. Whether they have provided the best such definition I cannot say, but they are surely right to claim that some such concept is needed—for doctors to practice, for patients to receive good care, for family and friends of the patient to understand and prepare for what is happening, and for society to trust what doctors say and do in delivering care. In brief, futility—or something like it—is a concept with important personal and social value, and more than simple prognostic meaning. One of the...

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