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BACKGROUND In Italy Advanced directives have not been regulated by law yet. Moreover, there is a confusion of concepts: advanced directives, refusal of treatment, medical futility and euthanasia are not synonymous.
DISCUSSION The following aspects are then discussed: object of directives; elapse of time between their expression and their application; knowledge of the directives and their obligatory nature. The refusal of a treatment that can save a person’s life is a critical subject. There are different ethical points of view: according to lay ethics, the patient’s self-determination prevails; the religious viewpoint, instead, says that life is a gift which we cannot dispose of. In any case, the patient will be confronted with the professional autonomy of the doctor. Should the doctor save a patient’s life in any case or should he achieve best clinical practice, in respect of his will? The doctor should interpret the patient’s will but with caution and judgment. An exemption from responsibility should be provided by law for doctors who respect patient’s living will.