Medically Inappropriate or Futile Treatment: Deliberation and Justification

J Med Philos. 2016 Feb;41(1):90-114. doi: 10.1093/jmp/jhv035. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


This paper reframes the futility debate, moving away from the question "Who decides when to end what is considered to be a medically inappropriate or futile treatment?" and toward the question "How can society make policy that will best account for the multitude of values and conflicts involved in such decision-making?" It offers a pragmatist moral epistemology that provides us with (1) a clear justification of why it is important to take best standards, norms, and physician judgment seriously and (2) a clear justification of why ample opportunity must be made for patients, families, and society to challenge those standards and norms.

Keywords: futility; medically inappropriate treatment; pragmatism.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Ethical Analysis
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Medical Futility / ethics*
  • Morals
  • Negotiating
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Physician's Role
  • Policy
  • Terminal Care / ethics
  • Withholding Treatment / ethics