SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574
Acceptance of the concept of medical futility facilitates a paradigm shift from curative to palliative medicine, accommodating a more humane approach and avoiding unnecessary suffering in the course of the dying process. This should not be looked upon as abandoning the patient but rather as providing the patient and family with an opportunity to come to terms with the dying process. It also does not entail withdrawal or passivity on the part of the health care professional. In addition to medical skills, the treating physician is responsible for guiding this process by demonstrating sensitivity and compassion, respecting the values of patients, their families and the medical staff. The need for training to equip medical staff to take responsibility as empathetic participants in end-of-life decision-making is underscored.