Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Medical Futility in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Hope for a Resolution


Contemporary medical practice in the NICU sometimes leads to conflicts between providers and parents in which the parent demands continuation of life-sustaining treatment that the medical team deems medically inappropriate or futile. Such conflicts can be difficult to resolve and trying for all parties. Here we describe a conflict involving a 25-week-gestation, 825-g newborn with multiple intractable medical problems and resolution of the conflict through ethics consultation under provisions of the Texas Advance Directives Act. The process established under Texas law sets conceptual and temporal boundaries around the problem of medical futility and provides a legal safe harbor for physicians who seek to withdraw life-sustaining treatments in the setting of medical futility, allowing resolution of such conflicts in a timely and effective manner. As such, it may provide a model for physicians in other states to follow.

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