Ethics Statements

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Medical Futility Position Statement

As Christian physicians and dentists, we recognize the limitations of our art and science. We realize that not all medical interventions will offer a reasonable expectation of recovery or achieve the therapeutic goals agreed upon by the physician and the patient or the patient's surrogate.

We believe that it is our duty to acknowledge the limits of medicine to our patients and their families.

We believe that clinicians should present the range of therapeutic options to their patients and recommend against therapy that does not offer a realistic expectation of benefit. To do otherwise engenders false hope in our human abilities and represents poor stewardship of medical resources.

However, the term medical futility should not be used when the real issue is one of cost, convenience, or distribution of medical resources. The determination of medical futility should not be made without the Christian physician realizing the heavy responsibility of no longer being able to prolong the life that God has created.

Because the physician-patient relationship is at heart a covenant, clinicians should work with their patients to reach treatment decisions that are mutually acceptable. They should not terminate treatment unilaterally on the basis of medical futility. However, they are not obligated to provide treatment that is contrary to their clinical judgment or moral beliefs. If a conflict cannot be resolved by further discussion or consultation, transfer of care is appropriate.

When transfer of care is not possible and the requested treatment is outside accepted medical practice, the clinician may be justified in withholding or withdrawing the treatment. In all situations, the clinician should serve as a healing presence of love, care and compassion. Our personal commitment to patients and their families is never futile.

Approved by the CMDA House of Delegates
Passed with 61 in favor, 10 opposed, 4 abstentions
April 29, 1994. Dallas, Texas.

Download file Medical Futility Position Statement with References