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N Engl J Med. 1983 Dec 15;309(24):1490-4.

The care of the terminally ill: morality and economics.


Are current expenditures on dying patients disproportionate, unreasonable, or unjust? Although a review of empirical data reveals that care for the terminally ill is very costly, it is not appropriate to conclude that such expenditures represent a morally troubling misallocation of societal resources. Moreover, though efforts to reduce the costs of caring for the dying are not unreasonable, they must be undertaken with great caution. At present, such efforts should concentrate on three basic goals: development of better criteria for admission to intensive- and critical-care units; promotion of patient and family autonomy with regard to decisions to stop or refuse certain kinds of treatment; and promotion of alternative forms of institutional care, such as hospice care. The most difficult moral problems will arise when patients and their physicians seek access to therapies judged only marginally useful. There may be conflict between administrators with broad institutional responsibilities and clinicians committed to particular patients.

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