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A patient on his deathbed, for whom no cure is possible and death will inevitably occur within three days, may not be disturbed at all and must be allowed to die.Practically speaking, this means that when a patient is approaching death, one may not take his temperature, measure his pulse or blood pressure, and certainly may not draw his blood unless curative therapy or comfort measures will be applied based on the test results.A second form of futile therapy involves a treatment that is extremely unlikely to be successful, but is intended to reverse the condition to which it is being applied.An example would be a patient with a cancer that has not been shown to be responsive to standard chemotherapy. But clearly, according to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, if the patient is in intractable pain and the therapy is not proven to be efficacious, the patient may refuse the physician's offer of a "futile" therapy that prolongs life without a reasonable expectation of cure or relief of pain.Performing CPR on a terminally ill patient whose heart has stopped -- not because of a cardiac abnormality, but because the patient has reached the point at which his body can no longer support life -- is truly futile and may be withheld.

In addition to the component of human misery involved in discussions of medical treatment of the irreversibly ill, the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, particularly the large percentage of healthcare consumed in the last six months of life, have led to calls to limit "futile" treatments.This can be contrasted with performing CPR on an otherwise healthy individual who develops an irregular heart rhythm that will result in sudden death.If resuscitation is successful, the arrhythmia may be treated and the patient may live a long life.Today, when there are almost limitless therapeutic options but limited economic resources, society may not be willing to provide "useless" therapies to patients who will not benefit.In secular ethics discussions, medical futility encompasses several issues only loosely related to one another.

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