Futility is a complex concept with several possible meanings. It has become an important concept in acute care as situations arise in which patients or their families request interventions that caregivers believe serve no purpose. Resolving these dilemmas requires an understanding of the concept of futility, knowledge of empirical data relevant to the particular situation, and unambiguous communication. The definitions, criteria, and application of the concept of futility are presented, followed by a discussion of the implications of decisions about futile care for nurses and others

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