Roman Catholic Perspectives on Medical Futility

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Arts and Humanities | Catholic Studies | Critical Care Nursing | Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing | Religion


There has been longstanding concern in Catholicism, centuries before end-of-life decisions were complicated by contemporary technological advances, about the limits of the obligation to preserve life. Two fundamental religious and theological convictions ground the need for discernment in cases where someone can be kept alive against all odds, or allowed to die.

Description of What’s the Point?: This collection of essays is about the awesome and painful decisions that often must be made when a life is nearing its end. The participants in these decisions include medical caregivers, family, and, when possible, patients themselves. Everyone wonders whether further aggressive medical treatment is advisable; they think it may be futile or even harmful. Should the emphasis in care switch to providing comfort for the remainder of life, rather than continuing a struggle that cannot be won? That such a switch should be made has been conceded by almost everyone who has written about end of life care in the past forty years. Understandably, however, it is one thing to make this argument in a classroom or journal and another thing to act on it. In these essays we hope to describe the textures of seemingly pointless treatment in various care settings and to identify a set of relevant and often controverted variables.


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