Conflicts between providers and patients or their families surrounding end-of-life care are both regrettable and extremely challenging, interpersonally and ethically, for all involved. These conflicts often implicate the concept of medical futility. The concept of futility is too often conflated with distinct concepts that are more ethically salient, including the fiduciary responsibility to assess surrogate decision-making, and distributive justice. By distinguishing these concepts from futility, it becomes clear that there are some situations in which forgoing life-sustaining treatment over objection is permissible, and perhaps even obligatory. But the justification lies in the constellation of rights and responsibilities surrounding surrogate decision-making, or in distributive justice, but not futility. Once futility is disambiguated from these other concepts, the practice of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment over the objection of a valid surrogate or a competent patient, based on the alleged futility of such treatment, is more clearly described as involuntary passive euthanasia.


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pp. 415-422
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