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Behav Sci (Basel). 2018 Apr 26;8(5). pii: E42. doi: 10.3390/bs8050042.

Ethics of End of Life Decisions in Pediatrics: A Narrative Review of the Roles of Caregivers, Shared Decision-Making, and Patient Centered Values.

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Division of Child Neurology, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, Palo Alto, CA 94305, USA.
School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Background: This manuscript reviews unique aspects of end of life decision-making in pediatrics. Methods: A narrative literature review of pediatric end of life issues was performed in the English language. Results: While a paternalistic approach is typically applied to children with life-limiting medical prognoses, the cognitive, language, and physical variability in this patient population is wide and worthy of review. In end of life discussions in pediatrics, the consideration of a child’s input is often not reviewed in depth, although a shared decision-making model is ideal for use, even for children with presumed limitations due to age. This narrative review of end of life decision-making in pediatric care explores nomenclature, the introduction of the concept of death, relevant historical studies, limitations to the shared decision-making model, the current state of end of life autonomy in pediatrics, and future directions and needs. Although progress is being made toward a more uniform and standardized approach to care, few non-institutional protocols exist. Complicating factors in the lack of guidelines include the unique facets of pediatric end of life care, including physical age, paternalism, the cognitive and language capacity of patients, subconscious influencers of parents, and normative values of death in pediatrics. Conclusions: Although there have been strides in end of life decision-making in pediatrics, further investigation and research is needed in this field.


end of life; palliative care; pediatrics; shared decision-making

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