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Technology has provided means to sustain life and provide care regardless of whether the treatment is appropriate and compassionate given the condition of the patient. This study presents two case histories, compiled from historical patient charts, staff notes and observations, that illustrate the variety of ethical issues involved and the role culture plays in the decision making process related to possible futile medical treatment. Ethical and cultural issues related to the cases are discussed and processes are presented that can help hospitals to avoid, or decrease the level of, medically futile care, and improve the cultural appropriateness of medical care and relationships with patients.


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Mains, D. A., Coustasse, A., & Lurie, S. G. (2008). Case studies in medical futility. Journal of Hospital Marketing & Public Relations, 18(1), 61-70, as published in the JOURNAL OF HOSPITAL MARKETING & PUBLIC RELATIONS, 2008 copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at: