By M.A. de Vos, A.A. Seeber, S.K.M. Gevers, A.P. Bos, F. Gevers, and D.L. Williams
J Med Ethics 2015;41:195-200 doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101395
In the ethical and clinical literature, cases of parents who want treatment for their child to be withdrawn against the views of the medical team have not received much attention. Yet resolution of such conflicts demands much effort of both the medical team and parents.
To discuss who can best protect a child's interests, which often becomes a central issue, putting considerable pressure on mutual trust and partnership.
We describe the case of a 3-year-old boy with acquired brain damage due to autoimmune-mediated encephalitis whose parents wanted to stop treatment. By comparing this case with relevant literature, we systematically explored the pros and cons of sharing end-of-life decisions with parents in cases where treatment is considered futile by parents and not (yet) by physicians.
Sharing end-of-life decisions with parents is a more important duty for physicians than protecting parents from guilt or doubt. Moreover, a request from parents on behalf of their child to discontinue treatment is, and should be, hard to over-rule in cases with significant prognostic uncertainty and/or in cases with divergent opinions within the medical team.
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