Ethical Decisions in Terminal Illness
Ethical decisions in terminal illness involve conflicts such as whether to withhold or to withdraw treatment, to perform a resuscitative attempt, or to allocate limited and expensive resources. Decision making has been complicated by the rapid progress in technology in intensive care and emergency medicine. A terminally ill patient is frequently unable to communicate and to express his or her will and preferences. Physicians often become a surrogate decision maker and have the responsibility of deciding whether to limit or withhold futile care. However, in terminal illness the definition of futility is not clear and is still a matter of discussion. Therefore, in the intensive and palliative care setting consensus among the diverse group of health care professionals is especially relevant. Despite a wide variety of personal beliefs and cultural and religious differences, decisions in ethical conflicts should be based on generally accepted principles such as respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice.
KeywordsPalliative Care Ethical Decision Ethical Theory Moral Rule Terminal Illness
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