Futile Surgery

Futility: We may not be able to define it, but we know it when we see it…

However futility does not encompass harm, only the absence of benefit.

Healthcare professionals and indeed the patient’s themselves may have very different definitions of “a successful outcome” and the “goals of care”. It is not surprising that surgeons and anaesthetists may hold different views about whether or not a proposed operation is futile.

“In a clinical situation when the anaesthetist believes surgery to be futile, he or she must consider and understand the basis for that belief, whether it is a value judgement or an objective opinion, and know that the primary duty of care is to the patient.”

Questions to ask yourself:

1. On what basis are you judging the operation to be futile?

2. Are you qualified to say that the operation is futile?

3. To whom do you have the primary duty?


American College of Surgeons – Bulletin

life in the fast lane


“Regarding the Anaesthetic-Surgical relationship, ideally there will be both personal and professional respect, and ideally it will be mutual.”