Religious perspectives on withdrawal of treatment from patients with multiple organ failure

Rachel A Ankeny, Christopher F C Jordens, Ian H Kerridge, Ross Clifford and Rod Benson
Med J Aust 2005; 183 (11): 616-621.


  • Religious or spiritual values often influence health care decision-making by patients and their families, particularly in times of crisis.

  • Though religious values might seem to be irrelevant where continuing treatment is judged to be “futile”, such clinical assessments should instead serve to open a dialogue about values and beliefs.

  • The six major religious traditions in Australia have some similar values and principles about death and provision of care for the dying, but differ in their processes of ethical reasoning, cosmologies, and key moral concepts.

  • Engaging with religious traditions on the common ground of basic values (such as human dignity, care, the sacredness of human life, non-violence, compassion, and selflessness) promotes negotiation of the manner in which care is provided, even where conflicts exist.

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  • Rachel A Ankeny1
  • Christopher F C Jordens2
  • Ian H Kerridge3
  • Ross Clifford4
  • Rod Benson5

  • 1 Unit for History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine (VELIM), Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Morling Theological College, Sydney, NSW.



Thanks to Fiona Mackenzie for research assistance.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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