On Friday, Nov. 18, Children’s Minnesota hosted the Ethics, Law and Futility Symposium at the American Swedish Institute for nurses, physicians, social workers, lawyers, patient advocates, and others interested in medical futility, specifically during end of life care.
Currently in the U.S., there is a knowledge gap between what are presumed as ethical and legal obligations to patients during cases of futility and what actual responsibilities are. This conference helped clarify these issues and provide tools for managing futility cases.
The audience enjoyed presentations by three esteemed experts, including:
Thaddeus Pope, director of the health law, Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, who provided an overview on the causes and prevalence of medical futility conflicts and the primary dispute resolution pathways used to resolve those conflicts informally and intramurally at the hospital. He also walked through the leading approaches to resolving the small but significant subset of these conflicts that become intractable.
Emily Pryor Winston, associate general counsel, Children’s Minnesota, who examined the sources of state law that may apply to cases involving medical futility. She discussed the following categories of Minnesota legal authority: state statutes and regulations, court cases, and finally internal policies and processes. Her presentation concluded with a preview of likely future legal developments.
Jack Schwartz, adjunct professor, University of Maryland School of Law; and former Maryland Assistant Attorney General, who delved into the ethics of legal risk and examined the impact of legal advice on ethical practice in hospitals. Through illustrative cases, he urged an approach to advice about legal risk that gives primacy to ethics.