This essay discusses the history of the "futility debate" and the motives that sometimes prompt health care professionals, health care providers, patients, and surrogates to take different sides in it. Changes in the health care system, financial responsibility shifts, technical medical advances, and medical care rationing are analyzed as contributors to the futility debate. So too are variations in the definition of futility examined as part of the current controversy. The respective attitudes of professionals, providers, patients, and surrogates in accepting the goals, capabilities, and limits of medicine are also explored. In particular, the lack of honest communication between health care professionals/health care providers on the one hand and patients/surrogates on the other is acknowledged as a major roadblock in the building of care-focused futility policies. Finally, various initial attempts of hospitals to create futility guidelines are evaluated in order to detect problem areas and to suggest lines of improvement. Keywords: medical futility, medical decision-making, virtues, resource allocation CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?