Experts' Attitudes Towards Medical Futility: An Empirical Survey From Japan
BMC Medical Ethics [electronic] 2006; 7(8): Accessed: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6939/7/8 [2006 September 27]
BACKGROUND The current debate about medical futility is mostly driven by theoretical and personal perspectives and there is a lack of empirical data to document experts and public attitudes towards medical futility. METHODS: To examine the attitudes of the Japanese experts in the fields relevant to medical futility a questionnaire survey was conducted among the members of the Japan Association for Bioethics. A total number of 108 questionnaires returned filled in, giving a response rate of 50.9%. Among the respondents 62% were healthcare professionals (HCPs) and 37% were non-healthcare professionals (Non-HCPs). RESULTS: The majority of respondents (67.6 %) believed that a physician's refusal to provide or continue a treatment on the ground of futility judgment could never be morally justified but 22.2% approved such refusal with conditions. In the case of physiologically futile care, three-quarters believed that a physician should inform the patient/family of his futility judgment and it would be the patient who could decide what should be done next, based on his/her value judgment. However more than 10% said that a physician should ask about a patient's value and goals, but the final decision was left to the doctor not the patient. There was no statistically significant difference between HCPs and Non-HCPs (p = 0.676). Of respondents 67.6% believed that practical guidelines set up by the health authority would be helpful in futility judgment. CONCLUSION: The results show that there is no support for the physicians' unilateral decision-making on futile care. This survey highlights medical futility as an emerging issue in Japanese healthcare and emphasizes on the need for public discussion and policy development.
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