Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 155–163

Futility Determination as a Process: Problems with Medical Sovereignty, Legal Issues and the Strengths and Weakness of the Procedural Approach


DOI: 10.1007/s11673-011-9297-z

Cite this article as:
Stewart, C. Bioethical Inquiry (2011) 8: 155. doi:10.1007/s11673-011-9297-z


Futility is not a purely medical concept. Its subjective nature requires a balanced procedural approach where competing views can be aired and in which disputes can be resolved with procedural fairness. Law should play an important role in this process. Pure medical models of futility are based on a false claim of medical sovereignty. Procedural approaches avoid the problems of such claims. This paper examines the arguments for and against the adoption of a procedural approach to futility determination.


FutilityLawSusbtitute decision-makingBest interestsSubstituted judgmentSovereigntyProfessionalism

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sydney UniversitySydneyAustralia