Treatment decisions for terminally ill patients

physicians' legal defensiveness and knowledge of medical law.

S. Van McCrary, Jeffrey W. Swanson, Henry S. Perkins, William Winslade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In this study, we investigated physicians' attitudes, knowledge, and reported practices regarding the effects of perceived legal constraints on the abatement of life-sustaining treatment from patients who are clearly dying. A factor in assessing these issues is the concept of defensive medicine -- that is the perception that doctors are being forced to order every possible laboratory test and second opinion, or to continue providing non-beneficial life-sustaining treatment, solely to protect themselves from future legal claims. This perception appears widespread among practicing physicians. However, we believe that defensive medicine represents only part of a complex constellation of factors that comprise physicians' reluctance to abate treatment. This phenomenon encompasses medical, legal, social, psychological, and spiritual factors interacting in ways that are not fully understood. We remain cognizant of the potential impact of all these factors. For purposes of this article, however, we have chosen to focus on legal and psychological aspects of physicians' reluctance to abate treatment and the corresponding ethical implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-376
Number of pages13
JournalLaw, medicine & health care : a publication of the American Society of Law & Medicine
Volume20
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1992
Externally publishedYes

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Terminally Ill
Defensive Medicine
Physicians
Psychology
Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
Jurisprudence
Therapeutics
Referral and Consultation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Treatment decisions for terminally ill patients : physicians' legal defensiveness and knowledge of medical law. / McCrary, S. Van; Swanson, Jeffrey W.; Perkins, Henry S.; Winslade, William.

In: Law, medicine & health care : a publication of the American Society of Law & Medicine, Vol. 20, No. 4, 12.1992, p. 364-376.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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