The enactment stage of end-of-life decision-making for children


The enactment stage of end-of-life decision-making for children


Sullivan JE; Gillam LH; Monagle PT


Palliative & Supportive Care




end-of-life decision-making; life-limiting illness; paediatrics; Palliative Care; parental support


OBJECTIVES: Typically pediatric end-of-life decision-making studies have examined the decision-making process, factors, and doctors' and parents' roles. Less attention has focussed on what happens after an end-of-life decision is made; that is, decision enactment and its outcome. This study explored the views and experiences of bereaved parents in end-of-life decision-making for their child. Findings reported relate to parents' experiences of acting on their decision. It is argued that this is one significant stage of the decision-making process. METHODS: A qualitative methodology was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with bereaved parents, who had discussed end-of-life decisions for their child who had a life-limiting condition and who had died. Data were thematically analysed. RESULTS: Twenty-five bereaved parents participated. Findings indicate that, despite differences in context, including the child's condition and age, end-of-life decision-making did not end when an end-of-life decision was made. Enacting the decision was the next stage in a process. Time intervals between stages and enactment pathways varied, but the enactment was always distinguishable as a separate stage. Decision enactment involved making further decisions - parents needed to discern the appropriate time to implement their decision to withdraw or withhold life-sustaining medical treatment. Unexpected events, including other people's actions, impacted on parents enacting their decision in the way they had planned. Several parents had to re-implement decisions when their child recovered from serious health issues without medical intervention. Significance of results A novel, critical finding was that parents experienced end-of-life decision-making as a sequence of interconnected stages, the final stage being enactment. The enactment stage involved further decision-making. End-of-life decision-making is better understood as a process rather than a discrete once-off event. The enactment stage has particular emotional and practical implications for parents. Greater understanding of this stage can improve clinician's support for parents as they care for their child.


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Citation List Month

March 2018 List



Sullivan JE; Gillam LH; Monagle PT, “The enactment stage of end-of-life decision-making for children,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed October 1, 2023,