Legal procedures in Wanglie: a two-step, not a sidestep.

Steven H. Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Hospital policies...have a very limited role in addressing the substantive issue of authority with regard to nonbeneficial therapies. First, they could not be limited, as Mishkin suggests, to persons in a persistent vegetative state. Nonbeneficial therapies encompass many other scenarios including ineffective cancer chemotherapy or open-heart surgery on profoundly demented persons. Second, I am not convinced that families or patients could be meaningfully informed of the specific relevance of such policies to their care in advance of a dispute. Most importantly, the view that such policies are required as a foundation to withhold nonbeneficial therapy implies that patients otherwise have a new right to command the provision of nonbeneficial therapies....It may well be judicially preferable to ask directly for declarative relief from a duty to provide a treatment, as Mishkin suggests. I am not convinced that such an approach would be "ethically" superior....Third, the novel, declarative approach directly risks a precedent that would affirm the family's right to demand futile therapy....Ultimately, when public policy on this kind of dispute is clearer, a declarative strategy may well be preferable. For now, the Wanglie case has outlined the fundamental issues of this novel legal question and has generated a fruitful discussion of a complex issue in patient care and public policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-286
Number of pages2
JournalThe Journal of clinical ethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991
Externally publishedYes


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