Choice to Refuse Or Withhold Medical Treatment: The Emerging Technology and Medical-Ethical Consensus, The

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Clarke, Alex M.
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INTRODUCTION|When a patient says "no" to recommended medical technology and treatment, he brings into conflict a confusing array of rights, interests and duties. The actors in these real-life dramas include the patient, the patient's family, the state, the hospital and its professional staff and finally the attending physicians. |The patient claims the right of self-determination. The state claims an interest in the sanctity of life and a duty to protect the interests of dependents. The physicians and hospital staff, trained in the application of their skills and mindful of their real or imagined legal exposure, argue for the integrity of the healing arts and set up the spector of involuntary exposure to suit. The family, frequently torn between respect for the patient's right to self-determination or religious ideology and the natural desire to see the patient survive through the application of relatively routine technology and skills, becomes a passive focus of the drama. When the patient's competency is in doubt and someone else says "no" on the patient's behalf, the controversy becomes more complicated, and resort to the courts becomes more certain. Further confusing the issue, the pace of events is frequently dictated by the biological deterioration of the patient's condition, accompanied in many cases by the certainty of the patient's death in the event treatment is withheld. |The actors in these dramas frequently play unaccustomed roles. Hospitals and physicians argue the case in favor of their own liability should they withhold treatment. Distant relatives and strangers to the family are asked to consent to medical and surgical treatment. Courts find themselves defining for physicians the scope of medical necessity and the limits of medicine....
13 Creighton L. Rev. 795 (1979-1980)
Creighton University School of Law
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