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Legal perspectives on consent in disputes about futile care

Futility disputes highlight some important legal principles concerning the right to refuse treatment, advance directives and the role of substitute decisionmakers

The need for legal resolution of futility disputes is a rare occurrence in Australia and the jurisprudence is still emerging.1 The legal approach to futility disputes differs in each state jurisdiction, and a full analysis of the Australian law is beyond the scope of this article. Most recent discussions have focused on the law in Queensland and New South Wales,2,3 so for this hypothetical I will outline the relevant South Australian law, given the SA connections of the other authors of this set of articles.4,5 However, this discussion has clear relevance to other jurisdictions in Australia.

Five established legal principles in South Australia

Adult patients are presumed to be mentally competent