Doctors’ Perceptions of How Resource Limitations Relate to Futility in End-of-Life Decision Making: A Qualitative Analysis

Journal of Medical Ethics (Forthcoming)

18 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2019

See all articles by Eliana Close

Eliana Close

Queensland University of Technology

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Cindy Gallois

University of Queensland

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine

Nicholas Graves

Queensland University of Technology

Sarah Winch

University of Queensland

Date Written: 2019

Abstract

Objective: To increase knowledge of how doctors perceive futile treatments and scarcity of resources at the end of life. In particular, their perceptions about whether and how resource limitations influence end‐of‐life decision making. This study builds on previous work that found some doctors include resource limitations in their understanding of the concept of futility.

Setting: Three tertiary hospitals in metropolitan Brisbane, Australia. Design: Qualitative study using in‐depth, semi‐structured, face‐to‐face interviews. Ninety‐six doctors were interviewed in eleven medical specialties. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Doctors’ perceptions of whether resource limitations were relevant to their practice varied, and doctors were more comfortable with explicit rather than implicit rationing. Several doctors incorporated resource limitations into their definition of futility. For some, availability of resources was one factor of many in assessing futility, secondary to patient considerations, but a few doctors indicated that the concept of futility concealed rationing. Doctors experienced moral distress due to the resource implications of providing futile treatment and the lack of administrative supports for bedside rationing.

Conclusions: Doctors’ ability to distinguish between futility and rationing would be enhanced through regulatory support for explicit rationing, and strategies to support doctors’ role in rationing at the bedside. Medical policies should address the distinction between resource limitations and futility to promote legitimacy in end‐of‐life decision making

Suggested Citation

Close, Eliana and White, Ben and Willmott, Lindy and Gallois, Cindy and Parker, Malcolm and Graves, Nicholas and Winch, Sarah, Doctors’ Perceptions of How Resource Limitations Relate to Futility in End-of-Life Decision Making: A Qualitative Analysis (2019). Journal of Medical Ethics (Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3400479

Eliana Close

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Ben White (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/whiteb/

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/willmott/

Cindy Gallois

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine ( email )

St Lucia
Queensland 4072
Australia

Nicholas Graves

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Sarah Winch

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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