Background: End-of-life decisions for neonates with adverse prognosis are controversial and raise ethical and legal issues. In Greece, data on physicians’ profiles, motivation, values and attitudes underlying such decisions and the correlation with their background are scarce. The aim was to investigate neonatologists' attitudes in Neonatal Intensive Care Units and correlate them with self-reported practices of end-of-life decisions and with their background data.
Methods: A structured questionnaire was distributed to all 28 Neonatal Intensive Care Units in Greece. One hundred and sixty two out of 260 eligible physicians answered anonymously the questionnaire (response rate 66%). Demographic and professional characteristics, self-reported practices and opinions were included in the questionnaire, along with a questionnaire of 12 items measuring physicians’ attitude and views ranging from value of life to quality of life approach (scale 1–5).
Results: Continuation of treatment in neonates with adverse prognosis without adding further therapeutic interventions was the most commonly reported EoL practice, when compared to withdrawal of mechanical ventilation. Physicians with a high attitude score (indicative of value of quality-of-life) were more likely to limit, while those with a low score (indicative of value of sanctity-of-life) were more likely for continuation of intensive care. Physicians’ educational level (p:0.097), involvement in research (p:0.093), religion (p:0.024) and position on the existing legal framework (p < 0.001) were factors that affected the attitude score.
Conclusions: Physicians presented with varying end-of-life practices. Limiting interventions in neonates with poor prognosis was strongly related to their attitudes. The most important predictors for physicians' attitudes were religiousness and belief for Greek legal system reform.
When parents face a potentially life-limiting fetal diagnosis in pregnancy, they then have a series of decisions to make. These include confirmatory testing, termination, and additional choices if they choose to continue the pregnancy. A perinatal palliative team provides a safe, compassionate, and caring space for parents to process their emotions and discuss their values. In a shared decision-making model, the team explores how a family's faith, experiences, values, and perspectives shape the goals for care. For some families, terminating a pregnancy for any reason conflicts with their faith or values and pursuing life prolonging treatments in order to give their baby the best chances for survival is the most important. For others, having a postnatal confirmatory diagnosis of a life limiting or serious medical condition gives them the assurance they need to allow their child a natural death. Others want care to be comfort-focused in order to maximize the time they have to be together as a family. Through this journey, a perinatal palliative team can provide the support and encouragement for families to express their goals and wishes, as well as find meaning and hope.
Background: The demands on healthcare professionals caring for families grappling with a life-limiting condition in an unborn or newly born child can be overwhelming. Clinicians working in emergency/trauma, hospice, and pediatric settings are already at high risk for burnout and compassion fatigue, which can leave healthcare institutions increasingly vulnerable to poor retention, absenteeism, and waning quality of care. The provision of exemplary palliative care requires a cohesive interdisciplinary team of seasoned professionals resilient to daily challenges. In September 2019, the American College of Gynecology, in a committee opinion, published standard of care guidelines for perinatal palliative care. This has created an impetus for exceptional caregiving and a greater demand for both physician and interdisciplinary healthcare provider education, training, and ongoing support that promotes truly beneficent care for pregnant patients confronted with life-limiting fetal conditions.
Methods: A scoping review of the research literature was conducted in order to distinguish the barriers and facilitators of professional resiliency in perinatal palliative care. PubMed, Medline, CINAHL, and EBSCO Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collections were systematically reviewed. Because of the paucity of studies specific to perinatal palliative care, several interviews of nurses and physicians in that field were conducted and analyzed for content distinctly pertaining to personal practices or workplace factors that support or hinder professional resiliency.
Results: The research indicated that medical professionals often cite a lack of knowledge, inexperience using effective communication skills related to perinatal palliative care and bereavement, challenges with interdisciplinary collaboration, misconceptions about the role and function of palliative care in the perinatal or neonatal settings, moral distress, and workload challenges as encumbrances to professional satisfaction. Strategic implementation of facility-wide bereavement care training, effective communication modalities, and evidenced-based practical applications are critical components for a thriving perinatal palliative care team. Authentic formal and informal debriefing, peer mentoring, adequate caseloads, robust provider self-care practices, exceptional relational efficacy, and cultural and spiritual humility can foster personal growth and even vicarious resilience for perinatal palliative care professionals.
Conclusions: Support should be strategic and multifaceted. The onus to implement salient measures to cultivate resilience in the perinatal palliative caregiver should not be only upon the individuals themselves but also upon prevailing regulatory governing bodies and healthcare institutions.
OBJECTIVES: The palliative and hospice care movement has expanded significantly in the United States since the 1960s. Neonatal end of life care, in particular, is a developing area of practice requiring healthcare providers to support terminally ill newborns and their families, to minimize suffering at the end of the neonate's life. This paper seeks to systematically summarize healthcare providers' perspectives related to end of life, in order to identify needs and inform future directions.
METHODS: Informed by the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, we systematically reviewed the literature discussing healthcare provider perspectives of neonatal end of life care ranging from year 2009 to 2020. To be included in the review, articles had to explicitly focus on perspectives of healthcare providers toward neonatal end of life care, be published in academic peer-reviewed sources, and focus on care in the United States.
RESULTS: Thirty-three articles were identified meeting all inclusion criteria. The literature covers, broadly, provider personal attitudes, experiences delivering care, practice approaches and barriers, and education and training needs. The experiences of physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurses are highlighted, while less is discussed of other providers involved with this work (e.g., social work, physical therapy).
CONCLUSION: Future research should focus on developing and testing interventions aimed at training and supporting healthcare providers working with neonates at end of life, as well as addressing barriers to the development and implementation of neonatal palliative teams and guidelines across institutions.
Objective: To identify sociodemographic and clinical factors associated with withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment (WWLST) for extremely low gestational age neonates.
Design: Observational study of prospectively collected registry data from 19 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network centres on neonates born at 22–28 weeks gestation who died >12 hours through 120 days of age during 2011–2016. Sociodemographic and clinical factors were compared between infants who died following WWLST and without WWLST.
Results: Of 1168 deaths, 67.1% occurred following WWLST. Withdrawal of assisted ventilation (97.4%) was the primary modality. WWLST rates were inversely proportional to gestational age. Life-sustaining treatment was withheld or withdrawn more often for non-Hispanic white infants than for non-Hispanic black infants (72.7% vs 60.4%; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.92) or Hispanic infants (72.7% vs 67.2%; 95% CI 1.32 to 3.72). WWLST rates varied across centres (38.6–92.6%; p<0.001). The centre with the highest rate had adjusted odds 4.89 times greater than the average (95% CI 1.18 to 20.18). The adjusted odds of WWLST were higher for infants with necrotiing enterocolitis (OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.21 to 2.59) and severe brain injury (OR 1.98, 95% CI 1.44 to 2.74).
Conclusions: Among infants who died, WWLST rates varied widely across centres and were associated with gestational age, race, ethnicity, necrotiing enterocolitis, and severe brain injury. Further exploration is needed into how race, centre, and approaches to care of infants with necrotiing enterocolitis and severe brain injury influence WWLST.
PURPOSE: Neonatal palliative care becomes an option for critically ill neonates when death is inevitable. Assessing nurses' attitudes towards, barriers to, and facilitators of neonatal palliative care is essential to delivering effective nursing care.
METHODS: This study was conducted from January to September 2015 and involved Italian nurses employed in Level III neonatal intensive care units in 14 hospitals in northern, central, and southern Italy. A modified version of the Neonatal Palliative Care Attitudes Scale (NiPCAS) was adopted to assess nurses' attitudes.
FINDINGS: A total of 347 neonatal nurses filled out the questionnaire. The majority were female (87.6%), with a mean age of 40.38 (±8.3) years. The mean score in the "organization" factor was 2.71 (±0.96). The "resources" factor had a mean score of 2.44 (±1.00), while the "clinician" factor had a mean score of 3.36 (±0.90), indicating the main barriers to and facilitators of implementing palliative nursing care.
CONCLUSIONS: Italian neonatal nurses may face different obstacles to delivering neonatal palliative care and to improve their attitudes in this field. In the Italian context, no facilitators of, only barriers to, palliative care delivery were identified.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Nurses' attitudes towards neonatal palliative care are essential to supporting nurses, who are constantly exposed to the emotional and moral distress connected with this field of end-of-life nursing care.
OBJECTIVE: Although stakeholders' participation in healthcare is increasingly recommended, bereaved parents are often excluded for perceived potential risks to them. The objective of this study is to describe the ongoing involvement and the perspectives of bereaved parents engaged in different types of activities in Neonatal Intensive Care Units and providers who work with them.
DESIGN/METHODS: Mixed methods convergent analysis.
SETTING: Canadian paediatric tertiary care university hospital.
PARTICIPANTS: All bereaved members of the resource parents group (n=8) and most providers who work with them (n=16) answered a satisfaction/needs questionnaires.
RESULTS: Since 2011, eight bereaved parents were involved in a large number of activities mostly related to palliative care (research, education or clinical care initiatives). Three engaged in peer-to-peer support activities while the others preferred activities outside of clinical units and/or without direct interactions with other families. All of them reported that their participation had positive impacts, but two parents also reported a reactivation of traumatic experiences during a medical simulation activity. All participants expressed a desire for further collaboration. Motivation to contribute gravitated around two central themes: helping others and helping themselves. Many wanted to give back, help other families, improve the system and meet with providers who had cared for their child. All stated that this kind of involvement empowered them and gave meaning to their experiences. Providers and researchers all reported positive experiences, mainly due to the unique perspectives of bereaved parents who took part in their projects.
CONCLUSIONS: With careful recruitment and supervision, some bereaved parents can become resource parents involved in different types of activities. It is important to understand the positive impacts this type of engagement can have on their healing process and to control the risks related to their participation. Research is needed to develop pertinent tools and measures to evaluate the outcomes and impacts of their participation.
Objective: The aim of this study is to evaluate formal bereavement debriefing sessions after infant death on neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) staff.
Study Design: Prospective mixed methods study. Pre- and postbereavement debriefing intervention surveys were sent to clinical staff. Evaluation surveys were distributed to participants after each debriefing session. Notes on themes were taken during each session.
Results: More staff attended sessions (p < 0.0001) and attended more sessions (p < 0.0001) during the postdebriefing intervention epoch compared with the predebriefing epoch. Stress levels associated with the death of a patient whose family the care provider have developed a close relationship with decreased (p = 0.0123). An increased number of debriefing session participants was associated with infant age at the time of death (p = 0.03). Themes were (1) family and provider relationships, (2) evaluation of the death, (3) team cohesion, (4) caring for one another, and (5) emotional impact.
Conclusion: Bereavement debriefings for NICU staff reduced the stress of caring for dying infants and contributed to staff well-being.
La découverte d’une anomalie fœtale sévère in utero peut conduire à une décision d’interruption médicale de grossesse (IMG) et aussi à la prise en charge palliative de l’enfant à la naissance. Dans ce contexte, une pratique interdisciplinaire s’est rapidement imposée. La rencontre des parents et du pédiatre en période prénatale permet d’expliquer le retentissement de la pathologie sur un futur enfant, et ce quel que soit le choix final par rapport à la grossesse. Dans le contexte d’une prise en charge palliative à la naissance, cela permet d’anticiper cette prise en charge particulière en insistant sur la valeur du temps de vie et de la rencontre. Les équipes obstétricales et néonatales peuvent écouter les attentes des futurs parents et leur faire des propositions en leur laissant le temps de la réflexion. L’anticipation commune des interactions entre les décisions obstétricales et pédiatriques permet de viser une cohérence du sens donné à ce parcours au cours duquel des équipes différentes doivent se succéder auprès des parents et de l’enfant dans une démarche néanmoins commune.
Despite the increasing need for neonatal palliative care, it is not adequately implemented in practice. This analysis aimed to clarify the dimension of the neonatal palliative care concept to increase understanding of the concept to give more insight into clinical practice. Using dimensional analysis methodology, 46 English language papers from 2001-2018 were analyzed. The coding of the literature for the perspective, context, conditions, process, and consequences of the concept was completed. Five dimensions informed the conceptualization of this concept and interrelationships among their themes/sub-themes were presented in the matrix named, "improving quality of life and death". Within the family-centered care perspective and under different conditions/contexts through the processes of neonate's comfort and providing holistic care, the consequences of this care were improving quality of life/a good death. Family-centered care was the fundamental dimension and essential to achieving the consequences. The other dimensions of context, conditions, and processes were also affected by the family's needs, preferences, culture, and expectations. This analysis reinforces that neonatal palliative care is a multidimensional concept. To provide the standard of neonatal palliative care an integrated plan to get together many stakeholders including community, parents, clinical staff, policymakers, insurance authorities, health care systems, and education system is required. All NICUs should have neonatal palliative care-trained nurses and protocols with a family-centered care approach to focus on the quality of life of neonates with life-threatening conditions from diagnosis of disease to death. Regular training and educational courses on neonatal palliative care and family-centered care principles can make nurses more sensitive to their advocacy role.
Les soins palliatifs demandent de plus en plus de compétences médicales, soignantes, humaines et éthiques, afin d’asseoir leur légitimité dans des domaines de plus en plus pointus de la médecine – réanimation, néonatalogie, cancérologie, gériatrie – ainsi que dans la diversité des prises en charge, y compris au domicile ou en EPHAD.
Dans ce contexte de développement des formations et d’élargissement des champs de compétences de la pratique palliative, cette 5e édition du manuel offre :
-les indispensables connaissances thérapeutiques ;
-les outils, à destination des professionnels en vue d’acquérir une compétence clinique pour la rencontre et l’accompagnement humain, psychique et relationnelle de la personne malade ;
-une contextualisation de la pratique des soins palliatifs dans leur dimension sociale, sanitaire et politique ;
-des jalons pédagogiques pour le développement des soins palliatifs dans leur dimension pédagogique et de recherche.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to describe differences and identify education gaps in the perception of palliative care (PC) between neonatal care providers in a Level IV Neonatal intensive care unit.
STUDY DESIGN: This is a descriptive survey mixed methods study. Email surveys were sent to social workers, pharmacists, dieticians, nurses, respiratory therapists, fellows and faculty in November of 2018. Total number of respondents was 181 with a response rate of 56%.
RESULTS: Statistically significant differences between faculty and non-faculty were found in regards to benefits of early PC consults, need for automatic consults for certain diagnosis and the frequency of PC consults.
CONCLUSION: The perception of PC differs greatly between faculty and non-faculty. Educational initiatives surrounding PC and communication along with instituting automatic consults for certain diagnosis could help bridge this difference in perception and educational gap.
Background: Research on what children wished they had done differently after their sibling's death has not been reported.
Objective: Examine what children wished they had/had not done, and their coping after a sibling's neonatal/pediatric intensive care unit/emergency department (NICU/PICU/ED) death.
Design: Qualitative data are part of a longitudinal mixed methods study of 6- to 18-year-olds interviewed at 2, 4, 6, and 13 months after a sibling's death.
Setting/Subjects: Ninety-five school-aged children and 37 adolescents (58% female; 30% Hispanic, 50% black, 20% white).
Measurements: Children responded to three open-ended questions: Thinking about your sibling's death, are there things you wish you (1) had done? (2) had not done? (3) What do you do to deal with your sibling's death? Conventional content analysis procedures were used.
Results: Children wished they had spent more time, talked and played more with their sibling, saved their sibling, taken care of their sibling more, and been able to see their sibling grow up. They wished they had not been mean/yelled at their sibling, complained/argued with mother about their sibling, and kept their feelings inside. Children coped by talking with family, friends, and the deceased; playing, reading, watching TV; avoiding thoughts about and remembering their sibling; crying, keeping calm, praying; living for their sibling. Resuming their usual activities, trying to be happy, and laughing also helped children cope.
Conclusions: Children commented more about what they wish they had done (n = 317) and less about what they wish they had not done (n = 107). Children talked to others and tried resuming usual activities to cope.
Some disability rights advocates criticise prenatal testing and selective abortion on the grounds that these practices express negative attitudes towards existing persons with disabilities. Disability rights advocates also commonly criticise and oppose physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia on the same grounds. Despite the structural and motivational similarity of these two kinds of arguments, there is no literature comparing and contrasting their relative merits and the merits of responses to them with respect to each of these specific medical practices. This paper undertakes such a comparison. My thesis is that a number of potentially significant weaknesses of the expressivist argument against reproductive technologies are avoided when the argument is used against PAS. In particular, I try to show that three common criticisms of the expressivist argument applied to reproductive technologies, whatever merit they have, have even less merit when they are used to reply to the expressivist argument applied to PAS. This is important because the expressivist argument applied to the end of life scenario does not get as much attention as the argument applied to the beginning of life scenario, and yet it has a relatively stronger position.
La question de la décision médicale en néonatologie est complexe : en raison de de la place particulière qu’ont les parents vis-à-vis du nouveau-né. Elle présente un dilemme souvent discuté dans la littérature. Ce témoignage vise à donner des arguments en faveur de la position selon laquelle, dans les décisions médicales de fin de vie, ce sont les parents qui doivent: les parents doivent pouvoir, s’ils le souhaitent, porter la responsabilité de la décision.
Background: Decision making regarding the treatment of neonates with poor prognoses is difficult for healthcare staff working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This study aimed to investigate the attitudes of physicians and nurses about the value of life and ethical decision making when encountering neonates with poor prognosis in the NICU.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in five NICUs of five hospitals in Tehran city, Iran. The attitudes of 144 pediatricians, gynecologists and nurses were assessed using the questionnaire of attitude toward the value of life and agreement on intensive care management based on three hypothetical case scenarios of neonates with poor prognosis. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics via the SPSS software.
Results: The negative agreement on the no initiation of intensive care measures and the discontinuation of resuscitation in neonates with poor prognosis was more than the positive agreement. Also, various factors influenced the participants' decision making for the provision of care to neonates. Regarding the case scenarios, the participants agreed on the provision of aggressive, conservative, and palliative care with various frequencies. This study confirms the importance of healthcare providers' perspectives and their impacts on ethical decision making. The participants favored the value or sacredness of life and agreed on the use of all therapeutic measures for saving the lives of neonates with poor prognosis.
Conclusion: More studies are required to improve our understandings of factors influencing ethical decision making by healthcare providers when encountering neonates with poor prognosis in NICUs.
Context: It is challenging to provide supportive intensive care to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), giving them every chance for survival, while also trying to minimize suffering for both the infant and parents. Parents who believe their infant is suffering may alter treatment goals based on their perceptions; however, it is unknown how parents come to believe that their infant may be suffering.
Objectives: To examine bereaved parents' perceptions of infant suffering in the NICU.
Methods: Parents completed a qualitative interview exploring their perceptions of the level of suffering that their infant experienced at the end of life. Parents whose infant died in a large Midwestern Level IV regional referral NICU from July 2009 to July 2014 were invited to participate. Thirty mothers and 16 fathers from 31 families (31 of 249) participated in telephone interviews between three months and five years after their infant's death.
Results: Four themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: 1) the presence/absence of suffering, 2) indicators of suffering, 3) temporal components of suffering (trajectory), and 4) influence of perceived suffering on parents, infants, and clinical decision making.
Conclusion: Parents used signs exhibited by infants, as well as information they received from the health care team to form their perceptions of suffering. Perceived suffering followed different trajectories and influenced the decisions that parents made for their infant. Soliciting parent perspectives may lead to improvements in the understanding of infant well-being, particularly suffering, as well as how parents rely on these perceptions to make treatment decisions for their infant.
In a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on a ruling of the Texas Supreme Court in Miller v. HCA, George Annas, the NEJM legal analyst, observed, “One bioethical issue is as intractable today as 30 years ago when the topic was first publicly discussed: the extent of parental authority to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment for an extremely premature infant”. The case involved the resuscitation of a 23-week 615 g infant over parental objections. It took years to resolve the case in the legal system. Nearly two decades later, we might inquire whether neonatologists and other critical care practitioners have greater comfort in dealing with the issue of parental objection?
BACKGROUND: Advances in prenatal testing and diagnosis have resulted in more parents learning during pregnancy that their child may die before or shortly after birth. These advances in testing and diagnosis have also resulted in more parents choosing, despite the diagnosis, to continue their pregnancies and pursue a palliative approach to their infant's short life. Perinatal hospice and palliative care is a growing model of care developed in response to these parents' previously unmet needs. A seldom-discussed opportunity to provide this care exists in outlying community hospitals, which are ideally placed to provide care close to home for families who have chosen comfort measures and time with their child.
PURPOSE: This article reviews the definition and utility of perinatal palliative care, the population it serves, attempts to support a rational for development of community-based programs, and describes one community hospital's experience with perinatal palliative care in their community.*
METHODS/SEARCH STRATEGY: This article describes the development and processes of a perinatal palliative care program at a community hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Perinatal palliative care can be developed with the assistance of already existing training materials, resources, and staff. While the cohort of patients may be small, implementing perinatal palliative care in a community setting may result in wider availability of this care and more accessible options for these families.
IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH: Research possibilities include developing a template for creating a perinatal palliative care program at community hospitals that could be replicated elsewhere; assessing parental satisfaction and quality indicators of perinatal palliative care at community hospitals and at referral hospitals; and assessing outcomes in various settings.
BACKGROUND: First defined in 2002 by Catlin and Carter, neonatal palliative care (NPC) is a relatively new model of care in neonatal pediatrics, first appearing in the medical literature in the early 1980s.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this article is to suggest a conceptual definition of NPC that encompasses all the essential concepts as a way of moving NPC forward by having a consistent approach.
METHODS: Following a review of the NPC literature, a thematic analysis as a method for identifying, analyzing, and interpreting patterns of meaning in the definitions ("themes") within the literature was undertaken.
FINDINGS: The major themes identified included philosophies of care, support, culture and spirituality, the team, and clinical management.
IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH: At the heart of NPC is the primacy of maintaining quality of life, while providing ethical and humane care that supports a "good death." The extensive elements presented in this article are considered essential to a comprehensive and conceptual definition of NPC proposed here.