Volume 23, Number 4, Winter 2012

A Different Approach to Patients and Loved Ones Who Request ‘Futile’ Treatments

Edmund G. Howe

The Journal of Clinical Ethics 23, no. 4 (Winter 2012): 291-8.


The author describes an alternative approach that careproviders may want to consider when caring for patients who request interventions that careproviders see as futile. This approach is based, in part, on findings of recent neuroimaging research. The author also provides several examples of seemingly justifiable “paternalistic omissions,” taken from articles in this issue of The Journal of Clinical Ethics (JCE). The author suggests that while careproviders should always give patients and their loved ones all potentially relevant information regarding “futile” decisions, careproviders may wish to consider, paradoxically, not giving advice in these situations, when the advice is based mostly or wholly on their own moral views, based on this same, ethical rationale.

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