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Futile treatment, junior doctors and role virtues


Futile treatment is one ethically challenging situation commonly encountered by junior doctors. By analysing an intern's story using a role virtues framework, I propose a set of three steps for junior doctors facing this problem. I claim that junior doctors ought always to investigate the rationale underlying decisions to proceed with apparently futile treatment and discuss their concerns with their seniors, even if such discussion will be difficult. I also suggest that junior doctors facing this ethical challenge ought always to be willing to initiate and engage in ethical dialogue, and that in some situations further action (such as taking concerns outside the team or refusing to participate in treatment) may be morally appropriate.

  • Futility
  • junior doctors
  • internship
  • roles
  • virtue ethics
  • applied and professional ethics
  • education for healthcare professionals
  • care of the dying patient

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