Ethical problems in the care of high risk neonates

Fondazione Maruzza Lefebvre D'Ovidio Onlus, Via del Nuoto 11, Rome, Italy.
The journal of maternal-fetal & neonatal medicine: the official journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, the Federation of Asia and Oceania Perinatal Societies, the International Society of Perinatal Obstetricians (Impact Factor: 1.37). 10/2010; 23 Suppl 3(S3):7-10. DOI: 10.3109/14767058.2010.510647
Source: PubMed


Recent progress in neonatal care has greatly improved the prognosis and the probabilities of survival in very sick or very preterm neonates and has modified the concept and limits of the so called viability. However, in some circumstances, when the death of the baby can only be postponed temporarily, at the price of severe suffering, or when survival is associated with severe disabilities and an intolerable life for the child and the family, then it might not be appropriate to utilize all the armamentarium of neonatal intensive care. In such circumstances, limitation of intensive treatments (withholding or withdrawal) generally invasive and painful, could represent a more human and reasonable alternative. The ethical principles underlying those decisions, the most frequent situations occurring in practice, the role of parents in the decision-making process, and the opinions and behavior of neonatologists from many European intensive care units will be examined and discussed.

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    ABSTRACT: Recent progress in neonatal care have significantly improved the prognosis and chances of survival of critically ill or extremely preterm neonates and have modified the limits of viability. However, in some circumstances, when the child's death can only be briefly postponed at the price of severe suffering, or when survival is associated with severe disabilities and an intolerable life for the child and his/her parents, the application of the full armamentarium of modern neonatal intensive care may not be appropriate. In such circumstances the limitation of intensive treatments (withholding or withdrawing) and shift towards palliative care, can represent a more humane and reasonable alternative. This article examines and discusses the ethical principles underlying such difficult decisions, the most frequent situations in which these decisions may be considered, the role of parents in the decisional process, and the opinions and behaviours of neonatologists of several European neonatal intensive units as reported by the EURONIC study.
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Effective provider and caregiver communication is central to quality care during treatment for life-threatening illnesses. The study aim was to analyze communication patterns between providers and a parent of an infant with a life-threatening disease using the Adaptive Leadership Framework, which is an activity that involves mobilizing others to adapt to a difficult situation. Method: A secondary analysis was conducted on one case using 23 interviews with providers and mother of an infant diagnosed with Hurler's syndrome. The interviews focused on decision-making challenges in regard to the infant's treatment and were conducted over a 1-year period (pre-transplant, study entry, monthly, after a life-threatening event or substantial change in treatment and at 1-year post enrollment). Content analysis was used to identify and categorize communication patterns using concepts from the Adaptive Leadership Framework. Results: Infant illness events and parent-provider caregiving were chronicled across a 1-year trajectory. Despite the life-threatening nature of Hurler's disease, the parent and providers did not discuss palliative care or end-of-life. The parent sought direction and answers from the providers. The Adaptive Leadership Framework suggested how communication approaches were often mismatched with the needs of the parent. Discussion: The results of the study accentuate the need to improve communication between provider and parents about end-of-life for their child. Adaptive Leadership illuminates how providers can influence a parent's behavior when facing a challenging situation. This study suggests that Adaptive Leadership is a useful framework to guide research about healthcare communication in dealing with challenging issues.
    01/2013; 1(2):417-424.
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: To follow changes in the causes of neonatal deaths in the NICU at Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel, over a decade; to examine trends regarding types of end-of-life-care provided (primary nonintervention, maximal intensive, and redirection of intensive care, including limitation of care and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment); and to assess the parental role in the decision-making process given that the majority of the population is religious. Methods: All neonates who died between 2000 and 2009 were identified. The causes and circumstances of death were abstracted from the medical records. Trends in end-of-life decisions were compared between 2 time periods: 2000-2004 versus 2005-2009. Results: Overall, 239 neonates died. The leading cause of death in both study periods was prematurity and its complications (76%). Among term infants, the leading cause of death was congenital anomalies (48%). Fifty-six percent of the infants received maximal intensive care; 28% had redirection of intensive care, of whom 10% had withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment; and 16% had primary nonintervention care. Over the years, maximal intensive care decreased from 65% to 46% (P < .02), whereas redirection of care increased from 19.2% to 37.5% (P < .0005). An active parental role in the end-of-life decision process increased from 38% to 84%. Conclusions: Even among religious families of extremely sick neonates, redirection of care is a feasible treatment option, suggesting that apart from survival, quality-of-life considerations emerge as an important factor in the decision-making process for the infant, parents, and caregivers.
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