Medical College of Wisconsin
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The Brutal but Utile Truth of "Futile". Perspect Biol Med 2018;60(3):340-344



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85041042202   2 Citations


Though futility may be difficult to consensually define as a description of the limits of medicine, the term futility as it applies to quantitative futility is useful and apt. The term conveys a sometimes harsh but truthful reality for patients and families. When talking with patients and families, conveying the concept of futility might be more compassionately expressed as an inability to provide a curative medical benefit to the patient, with a concomitant commitment to provide comfort care. The ultimate arbiter of quantitative futility should be the medical profession.

Author List

Derse AR


Arthur R. Derse MD, JD Director, Professor in the Institute for Health and Equity department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Medical Futility
Palliative Care