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Hospital Sentenced for Providing Futile Treatment

Posted Jan 30 2012 8:38pm
In June,  I blogged  about a French case in which a hospital was fined for providing futile treatment.  Basically, providers at the Hospital of Orange continued resuscitation on a seriously compromised newborn for 25 minutes.  The court concluded that this excessive length was "unreasonable obstinacy."  

I learned a lot more about the case from Manaouil, Gignon & Jarde, "A French Hospital Sentenced for Unreasonable Obstinacy,"  European Journal of Health Law  18(5) (2011): 521-530.  This case, like some others that I discussed in a recent  Journal of Clinical Ethics  (2011) article, re-frames the  debate from permissive refusal to mandatory refusal, from when may physicians stop futile treatment to when must they stop.  

The case is still on appeal.  Notably, French law that came into force after the case, like similar new Spanish law, requires that physicians "refrain from any unreasonable obstinacy . . . and may not choose to begin or continue treatments that appear unnecessary, disproportionate, or that have no other object or effect than the artificial preservation of life."  The authors conclude that while this law (whether in the statute or judicially created) is sound, it is questionable to apply it, as in the Hospital of Orange case, in the context of an emergency.

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