Should doctors provide futile medical treatment if patients or their proxies are prepared to pay for it?
Ethically and legally doctors are not obliged to provide futile treatment to patients, even if the patient or their proxies are prepared to pay for it. However, it may be justified where such treatment is harmless and has a placebo effect. In deciding about a request for futile treatment, doctors should be guided by the ethical principles of patient autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice. Guidelines are provided to assist doctors in making such decisions. Where futile treatment is withdrawn or refused, palliative care must always be offered. If it is decided to withdraw or refuse treatment, the patient or their proxy should be given the opportunity to contact another practitioner or institution that may be prepared to offer such treatment.
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