Experts' attitudes towards medical futility: An empirical survey from Japan

Alireza Bagheri, Atsushi Asai, Ryuichi Ida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The current debate about medical futility is mostly driven by theoretical and personal perspectives and there is a lack of empirical data to document experts and public attitudes towards medical futility. Methods: To examine the attitudes of the Japanese experts in the fields relevant to medical futility a questionnaire survey was conducted among the members of the Japan Association for Bioethics. A total number of 108 questionnaires returned filled in, giving a response rate of 50.9%. Among the respondents 62% were healthcare professionals (HCPs) and 37% were non-healthcare professionals (Non-HCPs). Results: The majority of respondents (67.6 %) believed that a physician's refusal to provide or continue a treatment on the ground of futility judgment could never be morally justified but 22.2% approved such refusal with conditions. In the case of physiologically futile care, three-quarters believed that a physician should inform the patient/family of his futility judgment and it would be the patient who could decide what should be done next, based on his/her value judgment. However more than 10% said that a physician should ask about a patient's value and goals, but the final decision was left to the doctor not the patient. There was no statistically significant difference between HCPs and Non-HCPs (p = 0.676). Of respondents 67.6% believed that practical guidelines set up by the health authority would be helpful in futility judgment. Conclusion: The results show that there is no support for the physicians' unilateral decision-making on futile care. This survey highlights medical futility as an emerging issue in Japanese healthcare and emphasizes on the need for public discussion and policy development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Jun 10
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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