South African Medical Journal

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Medical futility and end-of-life care

D Sidler, H R Arndt, A A van Niekerk


Acceptance of the concept of medical futility facilitates a paradigm shift from curative to palliative medicine, accommodating a more humane approach and avoiding
unnecessary suffering in the course of the dying process. This should not be looked upon as abandoning the patient but rather as providing the patient and family with an
opportunity to come to terms with the dying process. It also does not entail withdrawal or passivity on the part of the health care professional. In addition to medical skills, the
treating physician is responsible for guiding this process by demonstrating sensitivity and compassion, respecting the values of patients, their families and the medical staff. The
need for training to equip medical staff to take responsibility as empathetic participants in end-of-life decision-making is underscored.

South African Medical Journal Vol. 98 (4) 2008: pp. 284-286

AJOL African Journals Online