The Problem with Futility

R. D. Truog, A. S. Brett, J. Frader

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

359 Scopus citations


“Futility” is one of the newest additions to the lexicon of bioethics. Physicians, ethicists, and members of the media are increasingly concerned about patients and families who insist on receiving life-sustaining treatment that others judge to be futile. A clear understanding of futility has proved to be elusive, however. Many clinicians view futility the way one judge viewed pornography: they may not be able to define it, but they know it when they see it.1 The notion of futile medical treatment may go back to the time of Hippocrates, who allegedly advised physicians “to refuse to treat those who are…

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1560-1564
Number of pages5
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 4 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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