ABSTRACT: Death at the beginning of life is tragic but not uncommon in neonatal intensive care units. In Portugal, few studies have examined the circumstances surrounding the final moments of neonates. We evaluated the care given to neonates and their families in terminal situations and the changes that had occurred one decade later.
We analyzed 256 charts in a retrospective chart review of neonatal deaths between two periods (1992-1995 and 2002-2005) in a level III neonatal intensive care unit.
Our results show differences in the care of dying infants between the two periods. The analysis of the 2002-2005 cohort four years revealed more withholding and withdrawing of therapeutic activities and more effective pain and distress relief; however, on the final day of life, 95.7% of the infants received invasive ventilatory support, 76.3% received antibiotics, 58.1% received inotropics, and 25.8% received no opioid or sedative administration. The 2002-2005 cohort had more spiritual advisor solicitation, a higher number of relatives with permission to freely visit and more clinical meetings with neonatologists. Interventions by parents, healthcare providers and ethics committees during decision-making were not documented in any of the charts. Only eight written orders regarding therapeutic limitations and the adoption of palliative care were documented; seven (87.5%) were from the 2002-2005 cohort. Parental presence during death was more frequent in the latter four years (2002-2005 cohort), but only 21.5% of the parents wanted to be present at that moment.
Despite an increase in the withholding and withdrawing of therapeutic activities and improvements in pain management and family support, many neonates still receive curative and aggressive practices at the end of life.
Clinics (São Paulo, Brazil) 01/2011; 66(9):1569-72. · 1.59 Impact Factor