Medical end-of-life decisions made for neonates and infants in the Netherlands.
[Record Source: PubMed]
BACKGROUND: Advances in neonatal intensive care have lowered the neonatal death rate. There are still some severely ill neonates and infants, however, for whom the application of all possible life-prolonging treatment modalities may be questioned. METHODS: We did two studies in the Netherlands. In the first we sent questionnaires to physicians who had attended 338 consecutive deaths (August-November, 1995) within the first year of life (death-certificate study), and in the second we interviewed 31 neonatologists or paediatric intensive-care specialists and 35 general paediatricians. The response rates were 88% and 99%, respectively. FINDINGS: In the death-certificate study, 57% of all deaths had been preceded by a decision to forgo life-sustaining treatment; this decision was accompanied by the administration of potentially life-shortening drugs to alleviate pain or other symptoms in 23%, and by the administration of drugs with the explicit aim of hastening death in 8%. A drug was given explicitly to hasten death to neonates not dependent on life-sustaining treatment in 1% of all death cases. No chance of survival was the main motive in 76% of all end-of-life decisions, and a poor prognosis was the main motive in 18%. The interview study showed that parents had been involved in making 79% of decisions. The physicians consulted colleagues about 88% of decisions. Most paediatricians favoured formal review of medical decisions by colleagues together with ethical or legal experts. INTERPRETATION: Death among neonates and infants is commonly preceded by medical end-of-life decisions. Most Dutch paediatricians seem to find prospects for survival and prognostic factors relevant in such decisions. Public control by a committee of physicians, paediatricians, ethicists, and legal experts is widely endorsed by paediatricians.
Attitude of Health Personnel, Death Certificates, Decision Making, Euthanasia, Euthanasia, Active, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Intensive Care Units, Neonatal, Medicine, Netherlands, Prognosis, Questionnaires, Social Control, Formal, Specialization, Withholding Treatment
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