Getting the Balance Right: Medical Futility, Scientific Advancement and the Role of Law

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The concept of medical futility as an applied ethical framework has seen a rise and fall in its popularity over the last 30 years. It is a term used in relation to the assessment of a patient’s health condition that is deemed untreatable, irreversible and unresolvable. In four recent cases, Gard, Evans, Haastrup and Raqeeb, the concept has been brought to the fore once again. These cases highlight a mounting tension between clinicians and families. Parental desires to see their child’s treatment continued, while understandable, should not dominate treatment planning. This paper analyses judicial interpretation of the factors which determine an assessment of futility, and in doing so argues that the role of medical futility in judicial decisions of this kind is gaining prominence and will continue to do so as scientific advancement blurs the limits of medicine even further.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-37
Number of pages37
JournalMedical Law Review
Issue number4
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Nov 2020