Deciding to Forego Life-Sustaining Treatment: A Report on the Ethical, Medical, and Legal Issues in Treatment Decisions

Herman S. Wigodsky, MD, PhD
JAMA. 1984;251(14):1903-1904. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340380079034.
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Although not included originally in the legislative mandate establishing the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, the study Deciding to Forego Life-Sustaining Treatment was undertaken "as a natural outgrowth of our studies on informed consent, the `definition' of death, and access to health care and because it seemed to us to involve some of the most important and troubling ethical and legal questions in modern medicine." In his letter of transmittal to the President, the Commission's chairman goes on to state:

Although our study has done nothing to decrease our estimation of the importance of this subject to physicians, patients and their families, we have concluded that the cases that involve true ethical difficulties are many fewer than commonly believed and that the perception of difficulties occurs primarily because of misunderstandings about the dictates of law and ethics. Neither criminal nor


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