Japanese healthcare workers‟ attitudes towards administering futile treatments: A preliminary interview-based study

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 21 (4):131-135 (2011)
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Abstract

In Japan, few studies and ethical debates have addressed medical futility, but articles suggesting the practice of such treatment exist. The present study aimed to explore attitudes about this by examining personal practical experiences of those who have been involved in judging treatments as futile. We employed a qualitative descriptive design with content analysis of semi-structured and focus group interviews with 11 Japanese physicians and 9 nurses of a university hospital in Japan. The interviews mined their practical experience to identify why they provided treatment that was regarded futile, factors for determining futility, and attitudes toward foregoing futile treatments. All participants had provided treatments judged as futile for various reasons, such as patient request, inadequate decision-making processes, request from another physician, and the lack of standards with which to judge futility, among others. In addition to medical science factors , participants also considered non-medical science factors to determine if a treatment was futile. Almost all participants agreed that futility should be defined and that such treatments should be foregone, but they did not take a proactive stance towards this due to factors related to the healthcare worker‟s situation or the patient. Although the implications of the present study are somewhat limited, our results indicate that futile treatments are provided at multiple treatment departments. Health-care workers employ a variety of factors to determine futility, including non-medical science factors. As provision of such treatment is not always performed for reasons of patient autonomy, diverse approaches should be employed to cope with situations regarding futile treatments.

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