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  • Introduction
  • 1. Advance Care Planning
  • 2. Communicating Bad News
  • 3. Whole Patient Assessment
  • 4. Pain Management
  • 5. Assisted Suicide Debate
  • 6. Anxiety, Delirium
  • 7. Goals of Care
  • 8. Sudden Illness
  • 9. Medical Futility
  • 10. Common Symptoms
  • 11. Withholding Treatment
  • 12. Last Hours of Living
  • 13. Cultural Issues
  • 14. Religion, Spirituality
  • 15. Legal Issues
  • 16. Social and Psychological
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  • Clergy and Faith Communities
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    Site Index
    Back to Module 15: Legal Issues
    Why is Knowledge of Legal Issues Important?

    Why is Knowledge of Legal Issues Important?
    • Traditionally, questions of end of life care resolved through decision-making by physicians in conjunction with patients and families
      • If the dying patient is a child, such questions were resolved with parents
    • However, as technologic breakthroughs contributed to advanced medical interventions, new questions arose concerning the appropriate use or discontinuation of these interventions
      • In the absence of other guidance, many of these questions have been brought to courts for resolution

      • Landmark bioethics cases have acted as important benchmarks of the evolving societal consensus within the United States

      • Case names often act as a shorthand regarding the principles for which they have come to stand

      • Many physicians are unfamiliar with these benchmark cases and so tend to be more cautious than necessary about decision-making at the end of life
    • Generally, legal precedent follows medical ethical principles in end-of-life care
      • For instance, physicians are not required to provide treatment that would be ineffective

      • Nor are physicians required to provide treatment when a patient with the capacity to make health care decisions (or an authorized health care agent) has refused such treatment

      • In fact, it may be more legally perilous for a physician to continue to treat against patient or surrogate wishes
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