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Why the term ‘persistent therapy’ is not worse than the term ‘medical futility’


The discussion around the use of the term ‘medical futility’ began in the late 1980s. The Polish Working Group on End-of-Life Ethics (PWG) joined this discussion in 2008. They offered their own approach to the issues regarding medical futility based on the category of persistent therapy. According to the PWG, ‘persistent therapy is the use of medical procedures to maintain the life function of the terminally ill in a way that prolongs their dying, introducing excessive suffering or violating their dignity’. In this paper I attempt to show that the term ‘persistent therapy’ is neither worse nor better than the term ‘medical futility’, but it captures different aspects and nuances. Additionally, the Polish social and religious background plays a significant role in shaping the category of persistent therapy.

  • ethics
  • terminal care
  • palliative care

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