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In 1997, the Society for Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) published a statement regarding futile and inadvisable treatments. Recently, five critical care organizations published a consensus statement supporting and expanding upon the 1997 SCCM statement, and the SCCM issued a companion statement defining futile and potentially inappropriate interventions. In all of these statements, there is agreement that the term futile should be used only when an intervention cannot accomplish the intended physiologic goal. The organizations provide recommendations for optimizing communication, however even when clinicians use excellent communication techniques, there are times when competing ethical considerations mean that a surrogate persists in requesting an intervention that the clinician does not believe is justified. In such cases, clinicians should not label the requested intervention as futile, because doing so is disrespectful to patients and families, overly empowers clinicians, and stifles communication. When clinicians believe that they are justified in declining such a request due to differences in values or beliefs, they should refer to the requested treatment as “potentially inappropriate,” indicating that the disagreement is based on values, and that any decision to withhold the requested intervention is preliminary until reviewed through a fair process.