Australian Policies on Futile or Non-Beneficial Treatment at the End of Life: A Qualitative Content Analysis
Australian Policies on "Futile" or "Non-beneficial" Treatment at the End of Life: A Qualitative Content Analysis Close, E., Parker, M., Willmott, L., White, B. & Crowden, A., 2019, In : Journal of Law and Medicine. 27, 2, p. 415-439 25 p. http://sites.thomsonreuters.com.au/journals/category/journ
Posted: 19 Mar 2020
Date Written: 2019
A challenge in end-of-life care is requests by patients or their substitute decision-makers for treatment that doctors consider is "futile" or "non-beneficial". Concerns that these concepts are uncertain and subjective have led to calls for medical policies to clarify terminology and to provide procedural solutions to prevent and address disputes. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of how Australian medical guidelines and policies on withholding or withdrawing potentially life-sustaining treatment address futility. It demonstrates that while the concept is found throughout medical policies and guidelines, the terminology employed is inconsistent. There is also variability in the extent of guidance given about unilateral decision-making and mechanisms for dispute resolution. This is problematic, given that the question of further treatment can often only be determined in relation to the individual patient's goals and values. We conclude by advocating for the development of a unified policy approach to futile or non-beneficial treatment in Australia.
Keywords: end of life care, end-of-life decisions, legal policy, health policy, health law, end-of-life treatment, end-of-life care
JEL Classification: K10, I10, K32, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation