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

82 Pages Posted: 30 May 2007 Last revised: 6 Nov 2013

Thaddeus Mason Pope

Mitchell Hamline School of Law; Queensland University of Technology - Australian Health Law Research Center; Saint Georges University; Alden March Bioethics Institute

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.

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

JEL Classification: K13, K41, I18

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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=989662

Thaddeus Mason Pope (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Avenue
Room 320
Saint Paul, MN 55105
United States
651-695-7661 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.thaddeuspope.com

Queensland University of Technology - Australian Health Law Research Center ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Saint Georges University ( email )

West Indies
Grenada

HOME PAGE: http://www.thaddeuspope.com

Alden March Bioethics Institute ( email )

47 New Scotland Ave
MC 153
Albany, NY 12208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.thaddeuspope.com

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