Michigan Legislation Requiring Hospital Disclosure of Refuse-to-Treat Policy

by Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC on October 23, 2012

Futile Care Theory (aka medical futility) permits doctors and/or hospital bioethics committees to unilaterally withdraw wanted life-sustaining treatment based on cost and/or quality of life. This isn’t because the treatments don’t or won’t work — e.g., physiological futility — which should never have to be provided. To the contrary, they are refused precisely because they are working by maintaining the patient’s life. In other words, it is really the patient being declared futile (qualitative futility). (More details about futile care here.)

Some states have granted hospitals such legal authority, most particularly, Texas. Other state statutes tend to be more vague (such as in California). Regardless of state law, many hospitals have created internal futile care protocols, unknown to patients. Now legislation has been filed in Michigan (SB 1343) to require disclosure of such policies to patients upon request.

I don’t see why anyone would object to the transparency — except it might provide the kind of publicity that makes futile care harder to impose.

HT: Medical Futility Blog

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