Futility and the Law: Knowledge, Practice and Attitudes of Doctors in End Of Life Care

  • Lindy Willmott QUT
  • Ben White QUT
  • Eliana Close QUT
  • Cindy Gallois
  • Parker Malcolm
  • Nicholas Graves
  • Sarah Winch
  • Leonie Callaway
  • Nicole Shepherd


Despite the potential harm to patients (and others) and the financial cost of providing futile treatment at the end of life, this practice occurs. This article reports on empirical research undertaken in Queensland that explores doctors’ perceptions about the law that governs futile treatment at the end of life, and the role it plays in medical practice. The findings reveal that doctors have poor knowledge of their legal obligations and powers when making decisions about withholding or withdrawing futile treatment at the end of life; their attitudes towards the law were largely negative; and the law affected their clinical practice and had or would cause them to provide futile treatment.