Are withholding and withdrawing therapy always morally equivalent?

Journal of Medical Ethics 20 (4):218-224 (1994)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Many medical ethicists accept the thesis that there is no moral difference between withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining therapy. In this paper, we offer an interesting counterexample which shows that this thesis is not always true. Withholding is distinguished from withdrawing by the simple fact that therapy must have already been initiated in order to speak coherently about withdrawal. Provided that there is a genuine need and that therapy is biomedically effective, the historical fact that therapy has been initiated entails a claim to continue therapy that cannot be attributed to patients who have not yet received therapy. This intrinsic difference between withholding and withdrawing therapy is of moral importance. In many instances, patients will waive this claim. But when one considers withdrawing therapy from one patient to help another in a setting of scarce resources, this intrinsic moral difference comes into sharp focus. In an era of shrinking medical resources, this difference cannot be ignored



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 84,361

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Withholding and Withdrawing Treatment: The Role of the Criminal Law.Leonard H. Glantz - 1987 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 15 (4):231-241.
The Ethics of Withholding and Withdrawing Critical Care.Lee M. Sanders & Thomas A. Raffin - 1993 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2 (2):175.
The Moral Status of Enabling Harm.Samuel C. Rickless - 2011 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (1):66-86.


Added to PP

47 (#272,880)

6 months
4 (#201,141)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Daniel Sulmasy
Georgetown University

References found in this work

Principles of biomedical ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by James F. Childress.

Add more references