Show Summary Details
Mason and McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics

Mason and McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics (11th edn)

Graeme Laurie, Shawn Harmon, and Edward Dove
Page of

Printed from Oxford Law Trove. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 23 April 2024

p. 52016. Medical Futilitylocked

p. 52016. Medical Futilitylocked

  • G. T. Laurie, G. T. LaurieProfessor of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh
  • S. H. E. HarmonS. H. E. HarmonHonorary Fellow in the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh
  •  and E. S. DoveE. S. DoveLecturer in Risk and Regulation at the University of Edinburgh


This chapter begins with a discussion of the concept of medical futility. It examines cases dealing with selective non-treatment of the newborn and selective non-treatment in infancy. The chapter argues that while concepts such as ‘futility’ and ‘best interests’ have strong normative appeal, the search for objectivity in their application may itself be a futile exercise. The reality is that decision-makers are involved in a value-laden process, and this is no less true when the decision is taken in a court rather than at the patient’s bedside. The chapter then considers the issue of end of life, examining cases of patients in a permanent vegetative state and those in a minimally conscious state.

You do not currently have access to this chapter

Sign in

Please sign in to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription