Futility, communicating bad news and burnout in doctors and other health practitioners

Main Article Content

T Carmichael


Futile medical interventions have virtually no chance of success. Doctors might perform such procedures because of pressure from families or patients. The doctor might also have an ulterior motive of gain or prefer to do it rather than take time to communicate with the patient about a poor prognosis. Established ways to communicate bad news to patients are not always used by managing physicians with time constraints. The SPIKES protocol method is outlined to assist in sensitive communication where further intervention is futile.

This review primarily explores various aspects of medical futility. It also explores strategies for effectively communicating with patients and their families regarding futility interventions. A side-effect of futile interventions is burnout in doctors and other health practitioners (HPs). The complex relationship between futility and burnout is described.

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How to Cite
Futility, communicating bad news and burnout in doctors and other health practitioners. (2024). South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 17(1), e1930. https://doi.org/10.7196/SAJBL.2024.v17i1.1930
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Author Biography

L Gower, Private Practice

Clinical supervisor, writer, editor, and proofreader. Co-author and editor “Elements of Counselling: A Practitioner’s Handbook”. Board member Southern African Institute for Responsive and Accountable Governance (SAIRAG) and head of Psychosocial stream Whistleblowers Support Platform for Reform (WSPR). Human rights and social justice defender. BKS-Iyengar accredited yoga teacher.

How to Cite

Futility, communicating bad news and burnout in doctors and other health practitioners. (2024). South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 17(1), e1930. https://doi.org/10.7196/SAJBL.2024.v17i1.1930


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