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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 72

of 'Palliative care: Medically futile and potentially inappropriate therapies of questionable benefit'

Resolving conflicts surrounding end-of-life care.
Prendergast TJ
New Horiz. 1997;5(1):62.
Critical care physicians are frequently called on to negotiate issues of medical management with patients, their families, and other physicians. These decisions frequently revolve around end-of-life care. Recent data suggest that such discussions are manageable. In one study, 57% of patients and surrogates agreed immediately to a physician's recommendation to limit intensive care and 90% agreed within 5 days, while multiple treating physicians came to consensus about such limits within 4 days in 92% of cases. If conflicts are rare, they are strongly felt. They arise when any one of the parties to a decision insists on continued care against the considered judgment of another. Since the alternative to aggressive ICU care is usually the death of the patient, it seems difficult to reconcile a physician's refusal to treat with patient autonomy. The concept of a fiduciary offers a model of the physician-patient relationship in which the physician commits himself to the patient's best interests but retains a role in defining those interests. This model offers significant benefits over medical futility in negotiating conflicts over end-of-life care.
Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH, USA.