Futility, Autonomy, and Cost in End-of-Life Care

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 39 (2):172-182 (2011)
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Abstract

In 1989, Helga Wanglie, 86 years old, broke her hip. This began a medical downhill course that a year later caused her health care providers to conclude that she would not benefit from continued medical treatment. It would be futile, and therefore, should not be provided. Her husband disagreed, and the conflict eventually led to a lawsuit. The Wanglie case touched off an extended debate in the medical and bioethical literature about medical futility: what it means and how useful the concept is in making ethical decisions about starting or stopping treatment.

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