BACKGROUND: Although the need for palliative care is gaining recognition in Southeast Asia, knowledge about how decisions are made for children near the end of life remains sparse.
OBJECTIVE: To explore pediatric intensivists' attitudes and practices surrounding end-of-life care in Vietnam.
METHODS: This is a mixed-methods study conducted at a tertiary pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit in Hanoi. Physicians and nurses completed a quantitative survey about their views on end-of-life care. A subset of these providers participated in semistructured interviews on related topics. Analysis of surveys and interviews were conducted. Results were triangulated.
RESULTS: Sixty-eight providers (33 physicians and 35 nurses) completed the quantitative survey, and 18 participated in interviews. Qualitative data revealed three overarching themes with numerous subthemes and supporting quotations. The first theme was factors influencing providers' decision-making process to escalate or withdraw treatment. Quantitative data showed that 40% of providers valued the family's ability to pay to continue life-sustaining treatment. Second, communication dynamics in decision making were highlighted; 72% of providers would be willing to override a family's wishes to withdraw life-sustaining treatment. Third, provider perceptions of death varied, with 68% regarding their patients' deaths as a personal failure.
CONCLUSIONS: We elicited and documented how pediatric intensivists in Vietnam currently think about and provide end-of-life care. These findings indicate a need to strengthen palliative care training, increase family involvement in decision making, implement standardized and official do-not-resuscitate documentation, and expand pediatric hospice services at the individual, hospital, and national levels in Vietnam.