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Medical Futility Decisions

Deborah Pessa Oles, MD, MSW
Arch Intern Med. 1993;153(4):530. doi:10.1001/archinte.1993.00410040090016.
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In their discussion of quality-of-life decisions,1 Jecker and Pearlman assume that there can be a "broad community consensus" regarding a minimal threshold below which quality of life is so poor that life is not worth prolonging. This assumption is dangerous not only to the individual who is at this threshold and whose life is at stake, but also to the moral fiber of society. Except for the passing reference to the religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, Jecker and Pearlman fail to recognize that other religions have beliefs that run counter to the secular, changeable value system of contemporary America. Judaism holds that human life, in and of itself, regardless of its quality, is of supreme value. All efforts must be made to preserve it, except where these efforts bring suffering to the terminally ill patient.

Taking the decision regarding life-prolonging medical treatment out of the patient's hands and putting


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