Current Attitudes of Anesthesiologists towards Medically Futile Care


Purpose: To explore anesthesiologists’ perceptions of the reasons underlying why physicians continue to provide care that they consider futile. Methods: A qualitative study was conducted utilizing a grounded theory approach. Four separate focus groups (2 resident physician groups and 2 attending physician groups) were conducted over a three week span. An interview guide was used consisting of a proposed definition of futility and five open-ended questions. Responses to the five open-ended questions were used to guide follow up questions. Transcribed audio recordings were then analyzed. Results: With data reduction, we were able to separate responses into definitions of futility, stories of cases where futile care was provided, and opinions as to the underlying causes of continuing to provide futile care. A variety of opinions was obtained, suggesting the possibility that different groups (surgeons, anesthesiologists, family members) view questions of futility differently. Conclusions: Complete agreement on a definition of futility does not exist. Even when some agreement exists, there is great difficulty in predicting outcomes in individual cases. Future quantitative studies may provide more evidence of trends in underlying reasons for providing futile care. Focused education efforts may then lead to more agreement between all involved.

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A. Saettele and J. Kras, "Current Attitudes of Anesthesiologists towards Medically Futile Care," Open Journal of Anesthesiology, Vol. 3 No. 4, 2013, pp. 207-213. doi: 10.4236/ojanes.2013.34048.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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