Health Care Decision-Making and the “F” Word—Futility

Vol. 35 Issue: 3

(Note: The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: BIFOCAL Vol. 35, Issue 3.)

Health Care Decision-Making and the “F” Word—Futility

Counseling clients about medical futility in health care decision-making  

  • Wednesday, April 23, 2014
  • 1:00 – 2:30 Eastern time

Register Now!

Recent cases involving brain dead patients and resulting disputes over continuing organ-sustaining treatments have reignited debate over the appropriate use of medical technologies. The family of Jahi McMath in Oakland, CA, fought to keep their daughter connected to a ventilator, while a hospital in Fort Worth, TX, sought to keep Marlise Muñoz, fourteen weeks pregnant, on a ventilator over the objection of her husband and family. For terminally ill patients who are not brain dead, a family's desire to "do everything possible" sometimes leads to insisting on medical interventions that medical professionals may deem inappropriate or "futile."  

This program will:

  • Provide you with an understanding of the range of policy and practice issues concerning medical futility
  • Enable you to be accurate and supportive in counseling clients on these issues in the context of advance planning
  • Enable you to be more effective in counseling and dispute resolution when conflicts arise in end-of-life decision-making concerning the limits of care

The focus is not on litigation.  


  • Robert L. Fine, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, Clinical Director, Office of Clinical Ethics and Palliative Care, Baylor Health Care System, Dallas, TX
  • Bernard "Bud" Hammes, Ph.D, Director of Medical Humanities, Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation, La Crosse, WI
  • Thaddeus Mason Pope, JD, PhD, Director, Health Law Institute & Associate Professor of Law, Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, MN
  • Charles P. Sabatino, JD (Moderator), Director, ABA Commission on Law and Aging, Washington, DC

And, coming this summer, a webinar from the Commission focusing on timing and other issues in Social Security retirement. To be notified when more details are available, please contact


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Bifocal, the Commission on Law and Aging's bi-monthly journal, provides timely, valuable legal resources pertaining to older persons, generated through the joint efforts of public and private bar groups and the aging network.



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