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

See all articles by Eliana Close

Eliana Close

Queensland University of Technology

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Andrew Crowden

University of Melbourne - School of Rural Health

Date Written: 2019

Abstract

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

Close, Eliana and Parker, Malcolm and Willmott, Lindy and White, Ben and Crowden, Andrew, Australian Policies on Futile or Non-Beneficial Treatment at the End of Life: A Qualitative Content Analysis (2019). 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, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3543289

Eliana Close

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Malcolm Parker

University of Queensland - School of Medicine ( email )

St Lucia
Queensland 4072
Australia

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/

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/

Andrew Crowden

University of Melbourne - School of Rural Health ( email )

Australia

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