Volume 23 No.1, April 2016


Management of the hopelessly ill patient: to stop or not to start?

Gabriel M. Gurman
Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21454/rjaic.7518.231.hps

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The paper discusses the subject of futile treatment in the case of a hopelessly ill patient.
The topic has many facets, among them the ethical precepts of preventing futile treatment, but also the economic and logistic impact of treating patients who do not have a fair chance of benefitting from managing their medical condition.
A 75-year old patient, suffering from an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease and a clinical picture of acute surgical abdomen, is presented and two approaches are discussed.
The first scenario is the aggressive management, including immediate laparotomy and admission to an intensive care unit, a solution without a fair chance of saving the patient’s life. The most favorable, but theoretical, output in this case would be the patient’s return to his previous mental condition, without any connection with the reality and surroundings and in permanent need for help, supervision and assistance.
The second option is letting the patient die in dignity, alleviating pain and surrounded by family.
The role of the primary care physician and family is discussed and some ethical principles are presented in order to emphasize the importance of preventing futile treatment in a case of a terminally ill patient

Keywords: hopelessly ill, ethics, futile treatment