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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The formal concept of futility has been inchoately explored in psychotherapeutic scholarship and only recently has a small body of work focused primarily on anorexia nervosa and schizophrenia emerged. Therefore, this chapter must be considered an exploratory investigation of the meaning of the concept of futility in the practice of psychotherapy. The exploration will begin with a tracing of the intellectual history of the concept and a review of attempts to develop definitions and typologies of futility. It will then outline the fundamental ethical arguments debated in the medical futility literature with reference to anorexia nervosa. Medical, philosophical, legal, and ethical critiques of the idea of futility and its use in medicine and psychiatry will be examined. Finally, a tentative initial effort will be made to apply the ethical principles and values inherent in the debate regarding these discussions of futility to psychotherapy.

Keywords: futility, psychotherapy, ethics, psychodynamic, anorexia nervosa, palliative

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