Treating the Patient to Benefit Others

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 6 (3):306 (1997)
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‘Treatment’ from which the patient cannot benefit is sometimes administered to a patient so that the comfort of the patient's family or caregivers may be increased. Is this permissible? To answer that question we will explore the interests of the permanently unconscious patient and the potential for such a patient's interests to conflict with those of her family and healthcare providers. We will conclude that in the likely absence of a specific advance directive from the patient providing for such circumstances, treatment for the benefit of the family may be given so long as it is not abusive. However, treatment solely for the comfort of caregivers may not be given without consent of the patient's surrogate decisionmakers



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