HEC Forum

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 91–98 | Cite as

Handling Cases of ‘Medical Futility’

  • Colleen M. GallagherEmail author
  • Ryan F. Holmes


Medical futility is commonly understood as treatment that would not provide for any meaningful benefit for the patient. While the medical facts will help to determine what is medically appropriate, it is often difficult for patients, families, surrogate decision-makers and healthcare providers to navigate these difficult situations. Often communication breaks down between those involved or reaches an impasse. This paper presents a set of practical strategies for dealing with cases of perceived medical futility at a major cancer center.


Medical futility Ethics consultation End of life Beneficial and non-beneficial treatment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section for Integrated Ethics in Cancer Care, Unit 1430The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.St. Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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