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Intractable disputes about withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from adults who lack capacity are rare but challenging. Judicial resolution may be needed in some of these cases. A central concept for judicial (and clinical) decision making in this area is a patient's "best interests". Yet what this term means is contested. There is an emerging Supreme Court jurisprudence that sheds light on when life-sustaining treatment will, or will not, be judged to be in a patient's best interests. Treatment that is either futile or overly burdensome is not in a patient's best interests. Although courts will consider patient and family wishes, they have generally deferred to the views of medical practitioners about treatment decisions.

Original publication




Journal article


Med J Aust

Publication Date





545 - 547


Advance Directives, Australia, Decision Making, Humans, Life Support Care, Medical Futility, Mental Competency, Proxy, Quality of Life, Terminal Care, Withholding Treatment