Ethical Considerations in End-of-life Care in the Face of Clinical Futility

Joseph S. Kass, Ariane Lewis, Michael A. Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Management of patients with terminal brain disorders can be medically, socially, and ethically complex. Although a growing number of feasible treatment options may exist, there are times when further treatment can no longer meaningfully improve either quality or length of life. Clinicians and patients should discuss goals of care while patients are capable of making their own decisions. However, because such discussions can be challenging, they are often postponed. These discussions are then conducted with patients' health care proxies after patients lose the capacity to make their own decisions. Disagreements may arise when a patient's surrogate desires continued aggressive interventions that are either biologically futile (incapable of producing the intended physiologic result) or potentially inappropriate (potentially capable of producing the patient's intended effect but in conflict with the medical team's ethical principles). This article explores best practices in addressing these types of conflicts in the critical care unit, but these concepts also broadly apply to other sites of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1789-1793
Number of pages5
JournalCONTINUUM Lifelong Learning in Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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