‘best Interests’ In Paediatric Intensive Care: An Empirical Ethics Study

Title

‘best Interests’ In Paediatric Intensive Care: An Empirical Ethics Study

Creator

Birchley Giles; Gooberman-Hill Rachael; Deans Zuzana; Fraser James; Huxtable Richard

Identifier

10.1136/archdischild-2016-312076

Publisher

Archives Of Disease In Childhood

Date

2017

Subject

Decision Making; End-of-life-care; Ethics; Law; Paediatric Intensive Care Units

Description

Objective In English paediatric practice, English law requires that parents and clinicians agree the ‘best interests’ of children and, if this is not possible, that the courts decide. Court intervention is rare and the concept of best interests is ambiguous. We report qualitative research exploring how the best interests standard operates in practice, particularly with decisions related to planned non-treatment. We discuss results in the light of accounts of best interests in the medical ethics literature. Design We conducted 39 qualitative interviews, exploring decision making in the paediatric intensive care unit, with doctors, nurses, clinical ethics committee members and parents whose children had a range of health outcomes. Interviews were audio-recorded and analysed thematically. Results Parents and clinicians indicated differences in their approaches to deciding the child’s best interests. These were reconciled when parents responded positively to clinicians’ efforts to help parents agree with the clinicians’ view of the child’s best interests. Notably, protracted disagreements about a child’s best interests in non-treatment decisions were resolved when parents’ views were affected by witnessing their child’s physical deterioration. Negotiation was the norm and clinicians believed avoiding the courts was desirable. Conclusions Sensitivity to the long-term interests of parents of children with life-limiting conditions is defensible but must be exercised proportionately. Current approaches emphasise negotiation but offer few alternatives when decisions are at an impasse. In such situations, the instrumental role played by a child’s deterioration and avoidance of the courts risks giving insufficient weight to the child’s interests. New approaches to decision making are needed.

Rights

Article information provided for research and reference use only. PedPalASCNET does not hold any rights over the resource listed here. All rights are retained by the journal listed under publisher and/or the creator(s).

Citation List Month

June 2017 List

URL Address

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28408466

Citation

Birchley Giles; Gooberman-Hill Rachael; Deans Zuzana; Fraser James; Huxtable Richard, “‘best Interests’ In Paediatric Intensive Care: An Empirical Ethics Study,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed May 17, 2022, https://pedpalascnetlibrary.omeka.net/items/show/10889.

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