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Autonomy versus futility? Barriers to good clinical practice in end-of-life care: a Queensland case

Sean Lawrence, Lindy Willmott, Eleanor Milligan, Sarah Winch, Ben White and Malcolm Parker
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (6): 404-405. || doi: 10.5694/mja10.10969
  • Sean Lawrence1
  • Lindy Willmott2
  • Eleanor Milligan3
  • Sarah Winch4
  • Ben White2
  • Malcolm Parker4

  • 1 Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, QLD.
  • 2 Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD.
  • 3 School of Medicine, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD.
  • 4 School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD.


Competing interests:

Sean Lawrence was the emergency physician who initially treated the patient in this case. He is named in the publicly available Coroner’s report.1 All information about the care of the patient in this article has been sourced directly from publicly available documentation and there has been no breach of patient confidentiality.

  • 1. Barnes M, State Coroner. Inquest into the death of June Woo (COR 2713/02). Brisbane: Queensland Coroner’s Court, 1 Jun 2009. http://www.courts.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/131961/cif-woo-j-20090601.pdf (accessed Jan 2012).
  • 2. White B, Willmott L. Issue 11: A requirement to provide futile treatment? In: Rethinking life-sustaining measures: questions for Queensland. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology, 2005: 69-72. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/7093/1/7093_1.pdf (accessed Jan 2012).
  • 3. Queensland Health. Quick guide to completing an Acute Resuscitation Plan (ARP). http://apps.health.qld.gov.au/acp/Public_Section/pdf_QuickGuide.pdf (accessed Jan 2012).
  • 4. Murphy BF. What has happened to clinical leadership in futile care discussions? Med J Aust 2008; 188: 418-419. <MJA full text>
  • 5. Holley CK, Mast BT. The impact of anticipatory grief on caregiver burden in dementia caregivers. Gerontologist 2009; 49: 388-396.
  • 6. Weissman DE. Decision making at a time of crisis near the end of life. JAMA 2004; 292: 1738-1743.
  • 7. Meltzer LS, Huckabay LM. Critical care nurses’ perceptions of futile care and its effect on burnout. Am J Crit Care 2004; 13: 202-208.
  • 8. Ferrell BR. Understanding the moral distress of nurses witnessing medically futile care. Oncol Nurs Forum 2006; 33: 922-930.
  • 9. Schluter J, Winch S, Holzhauser K, Henderson A. Nurses’ moral sensitivity and hospital ethical climate: a literature review. Nurs Ethics 2008; 15: 304-321.
  • 10. Marco CA, Bessman ES, Kelen GD. Ethical issues of cardiopulmonary resuscitation: comparison of emergency physician practices from 1995 to 2007. Acad Emerg Med 2009; 16: 270-273.
  • 11. Parker M. Futile choices: Wooing doctors to acknowledge the law in Queensland. J Law Med 2010; 18: 32-37.

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