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Br Med Bull. 2011;98:99-113. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldr016. Epub 2011 May 19.

Guidance for withdrawal and withholding of intensive care as part of neonatal end-of-life care.

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1
Neonatal Unit, Northwick Park Hospital, North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, Harrow, UK.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Advances in foetal medicine and neonatology have enabled increased antenatal diagnosis of life-limiting conditions and improved preterm survival, escalating the debate surrounding the ethics of neonatal end-of-life care and withholding or withdrawing intensive care.

SOURCES OF DATA:

Literature search of MEDLINE and the Cochrane library databases using the search terms [neonatal palliative care] AND [neonatal AND withdrawal of intensive care and treatment]. Review of consensus statements and guidelines.

AREAS OF AGREEMENT:

UK practice is aided by Grade 3-4 evidence, consensus statements and practice frameworks. There is limited systematic evidence.

AREAS OF CONTROVERSY:

We illustrate UK practice with clinical cases and describe worldwide variations.

GROWING POINTS:

Neonatal end-of-life care incorporating withholding and withdrawing intensive care is not uncommon. The child's 'best interests' take precedent and clinical guidance has been published to support the joint decision-making partnership of clinicians and families. Withholding and withdrawing intensive care should be part of an overall end-of-life care plan incorporating the principles and standards of palliative care.

AREAS TIMELY FOR DEVELOPING RESEARCH:

Further guidance on standards and staff training with regard to communicating and delivering neonatal end-of-life care is required to ensure consistent practice of staff and choices for families. The recommended establishment of neonatal outcome databases should aid UK preterm decision-making (NHS and Department of Health Neonatal Taskforce, Toolkit for high-quality neonatal services, London, Department of Health 2009).

PMID:
21596714
DOI:
10.1093/bmb/ldr016
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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