The Constitution of the USA has provided individuals with the right to request the discontinuance of medical treatment even if such a course of action could result in the death of that individual. Ethicists and medical professionals have opined that a patient or his family should not be permitted to request the withdrawal of medical treatment. At present it is unclear as to when to discontinue medical treatment.
Some health care professionals wrongly assumed that they can withdraw life extending treatment and this had resulted in severe punishment being imposed on medical practitioners who had failed to follow the advance directive. In medical battery cases, or cases where a medical procedure was administered without the patient’s consent, claims against physicians have been admitted despite the fact that the medical procedure may have been harmless or life extending (Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die, 1999).
Medical futility refers to treatment that does not benefit the patient or is ineffective in treating the patient’s ailment. This concept has not been defined explicitly and different opinions exist with regard to the circumstances under which a particular patient’s treatment could be considered to be an instance of medical futility (Angelucci, 2006). With the phenomenal progress made by modern medicine it has become possible to support human life indefinitely. It has to be accepted that according patients with ongoing medical care cannot be in vain.
A thorny issue is created when the utility of the treatment is subjected to doubt by either the physician or family members of the patient. A solution to this dilemma is possible only on adoption of solutions that are ethically and morally acceptable (Kasman). Ethics comprises a system that enables a person to determine whether a particular action is morally permissible or not. Ethical problems are created while deciding about the futility or otherwise of medical intervention.
Such decisions are complex and entail the proper evaluation of thoughts, emotions, prejudices and reliable information about that particular disease (Resnick). On occasion a number of conflicts have been observed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit between parents and the medical team. The cause for this conflict is that the medical team considers it to be futile to continue the life – sustaining treatment, whereas the parents feel that it would be inappropriate to do so. In one instance, a newborn baby weighed just 825 g and had a number of irresolvable medical complications.
The provisions of the Texas Advance Directives Act permitted the physicians to withdraw life sustaining treatment as provision of such treatment to the new born child was patently futile ( Medical Futility in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Hope for a Resolution ). The development of modern day medical technology is astounding and this has given a new dimension to the age old discussions regarding the right of the medical profession to decide whether medical treatment is futile and whether the nature of the treatment should be determined by the personal wealth of the patient.
Extension of life has acquired a new meaning due to the breakthroughs made in life-sustaining technologies, cloning and stem cell research (Scannel). The Texas Advance Directives Act of 1999 has bestowed several significant benefits on medical institutions, medical professionals, the families of patients and patients. The licensing authorities have been empowered to impose stringent penalties on members of the medical profession who violate the provisions of this act.
In the event of medical professionals ignoring what had been desired by a substitute health care decision maker, escape from civil or criminal prosecution becomes available only if the procedure specified by the ethics consultation process had been utilized (Fine). Judgment regarding the futility of medical treatment differs from person to person. The locale of the institution offering medical and the objective of medical intervention treatment are major factors that influence such an assessment. Several experts have opined that it is impossible to define futility specifically or concretely.
However, some commentators have stated unequivocally that it is more important to come to a compromise between the aspirations of patients or their families and the medical professionals on the basis of morality and ethics (CEJA Report 2 – I-96 Medical Futility in End-of-Life Care ). References Medical Futility in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Hope for a Resolution . (n. d. ). Retrieved May 25, 2007, from http://pediatrics. aappublications. org/cgi/content/full/116/5/1219 Angelucci, P. A. (2006). Grasping the concept of medical futility.
Nursing Management , 37 ( 2), p12-14, 2p . Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die. (1999). Retrieved May 23, 2007, from In Great American Court Cases, Gale: http://www. xreferplus. com/entry. jsp? xrefid=5015793&secid=. 4 CEJA Report 2 – I-96 Medical Futility in End-of-Life Care . (n. d. ). Retrieved May 25, 2007, from http://www. ama-assn. org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/369/ceja_2i96. pdf Fine, M. R. (n. d. ). Medical futility and the Texas Advance Directives Act of 1999 . Retrieved May 25, 2007, from http://www. pubmedcentral. nih. gov/articlerender. fcgi? artid=1312296 Kasman, M. M.
(n. d. ). When Is Medical Treatment Futile? A Guide for Students, Residents, and Physicians . Retrieved May 24, 2007, from Department of Internal Medicine/Center for Clinical Bioethics, Washington, DC: http://www. pubmedcentral. nih. gov/articlerender. fcg Resnick, P. C. (n. d. ). Ethics and Medical Futility: the Healthcare Professional’s Role . Retrieved May 24, 2007, from http://www. medscape. com/viewarticle/550278 Scannel, M. K. (n. d. ). Medical Futility. Retrieved May 25, 2007, from http://xnet. kp. org/permanentejournal/winter02/futility. html Volume 19, October 2004