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Medical Futility Statutes: No Safe Harbor to Unilaterally Refuse Life-Sustaining Treatment


Thaddeus Mason Pope


Hamline University - School of Law; Australian Health Law Research Center, QUT


Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 75, No. 1, 2007

Abstract:     
Over the past fifteen years, a majority of states have enacted medical futility statutes that permit a health care provider to refuse a patient's request for life-sustaining medical treatment. These statutes typically permit the provider to unilaterally stop LSMT where it would not provide significant benefit or would be contrary to generally accepted health care standards. But these safe harbors are vague and imprecise. Consequently, providers have been reluctant to utilize these medical futility statutes.

This uncertainty probably cannot be reduced. Consensus on substantive measures of medical inappropriateness has proven unachievable. Only a purely process-based approach like that outlined in the Texas Advance Directives Act, has proven effective in inducing the conduct that medical futility statutes intended. Therefore, while the specific contours of TADA must be refined, policymakers in other states should look to the TADA as a model.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 82

Keywords: medical futility, end-of-life, death and dying, bioethics, advance directives

JEL Classification: K13, K41, I18


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Date posted: May 30, 2007 ; Last revised: November 6, 2013

Suggested Citation

Pope, Thaddeus Mason, Medical Futility Statutes: No Safe Harbor to Unilaterally Refuse Life-Sustaining Treatment. Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 75, No. 1, 2007. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=989662

Contact Information

Thaddeus Mason Pope (Contact Author)
Hamline University - School of Law ( email )
1536 Hewitt Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104-1237
United States
651-523-2519 (Phone)
901-202-7549 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: www.thaddeuspope.com
Australian Health Law Research Center, QUT ( email )
2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia
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