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Medically Inappropriate Treatment: Can We Do Better?

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Requests for treatment deemed medically inappropriate, often referred to as requests for "futile treatment," constitute one of the most intractable ethical challenges in the care of patients. Over the last 25 years, various attempts have been made to address the issue, yet many clinicians and others indicate that very little progress has been made in preventing, reducing or successfully resolving these situations. Efforts to define futile treatment and develop procedural guidelines to resolve conflicts have been largely unsuccessful. Physicians and medical ethicists Jeffrey Burns and Robert Truog have instead proposed better communication between clinicians and patients and the use of mediation techniques to resolve differences ("Futility: A Concept in Evolution," Chest 132, no 6 [December 2007]: 1987-93). This webinar explores why we are still struggling with requests for medically inappropriate treatment, ethical considerations for approaching them, and some strategies for addressing them.