A demanding act of love: Barriers and challenges in communication and decision-making for infants at the limits of viability

Title

A demanding act of love: Barriers and challenges in communication and decision-making for infants at the limits of viability

Creator

Hendriks M J; Abraham A

Publisher

Swiss Medical Weekly

Date

2017

Subject

empathy; infant; decision making; semi structured interview; delivery room; responsibility; university hospital; parental attitude; prematurity; conference abstract; human; child; patient care; honesty

Description

Introduction: The birth of an extreme preterm infant often comes unexpectedly. Decisions, then, must often be made quickly and under circumstances that can be emotionally stressful for parents or morally burdensome for health care professionals. In the past decades, more emphasis has been placed on parental involvement in the decisionmaking, but a shared approach has remained understudied and difficult to implement in practice. Method(s): In order to explore parental attitudes and values in the end-of-life decision-making process, we conducted 13 qualitative semi-structured interviews with 20 parents. We recruited parents of extremely premature infants who were born alive and died in the delivery room or in the NICU at the University Hospital Zurich in the years 2013-2015. Result(s): Parents described factors that resulted in either a smooth or friction-laden decisional process. Some elements favored good communication between parents and the health care team, such as transparent information, empathy and honesty. Elements such as lacking of transparent information and lacking continuity of care discouraged good communication. Parents experienced the end-of-life decision-making process in divergent ways. Although most parents did consider to be involved in decision-making, they were nevertheless satisfied with the process. In contrast, few parents were involved in the decision-making. They appreciated and valued the possibility to take part in the decision, but they did not perceive the decision as an act of autonomy. Rather they felt it was part of their parental responsibility and a demanding act of love. Conclusion(s): The (non)involvement of parents in the end-of-life decision-making of their infant revealed that parental decision-making preferences are not homogenous, but highly case- and contextdependent. Health care professionals, who are closest to the parents, should aim to avoid either of these two opposites. Instead, they should enable and encourage parents' relationship with their child and create a space where parental preferences for involvement in end-of-life decisions can be assessed. Only then, it is considered a shared commitment.

Citation List Month

June 2019 List

Collection

Citation

Hendriks M J; Abraham A, “A demanding act of love: Barriers and challenges in communication and decision-making for infants at the limits of viability,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed May 17, 2022, https://pedpalascnetlibrary.omeka.net/items/show/16165.

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