Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 329–337 | Cite as

Futile Treatment—A Review

  • Lenko Šarić
  • Ivana Prkić
  • Marko Jukić
Critical Perspectives


The main goal of intensive care medicine is helping patients survive acute threats to their lives, while preserving and restoring life quality. Because of medical advancements, it is now possible to sustain life to an extent that would previously have been difficult to imagine. However, the goals of medicine are not to preserve organ function or physiological activity but to treat and improve the health of a person as a whole. When dealing with medical futilities, physicians and other members of the care team should be aware of some ethical principles. Knowing these principles could make decision-making easier, especially in cases where legal guidelines are insufficient or lacking. Understanding of these principles can relieve the pressure that healthcare professionals feel when they have to deal with medical futility. Efforts should be made to promote an ethics of care, which means caring for patients even after further invasive treatment has been deemed to be futile. Treatments that improve patients’ comfort and minimize suffering of both patients and their families are equally as important as those aimed at saving patients’ lives.


Medical futility Ethics Critical care Palliative care Quality of life 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anaesthesiology, Reanimatology and Intensive CareUniversity Hospital SplitSplitCroatia
  2. 2.Department of Anaesthesiology, Reanimatology and Intensive CareUniversity of Split, School of MedicineSplitCroatia

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