Context: Cancer is a life-changing diagnosis accompanied by significant emotional distress, especially for children with advanced disease. However, the content and processes of discussing emotion in advanced pediatric cancer remain unknown.
Objectives: To describe the initiation, response, and content of emotional communication in advanced pediatric cancer.
Methods: We audiorecorded 35 outpatient consultations between oncologists and families of children whose cancer recently progressed. We coded conversations based on Verona Coding Definitions of Emotional Sequences.
Results: About 91% of conversations contained emotional cues, and 40% contained explicit emotional concerns. Parents and clinicians equally initiated cues (parents: 48%, 183 of 385; clinicians: 49%) and concerns (parents: 51%; clinicians: 49%). Children initiated 3% of cues and no explicit concerns. Emotional content was most commonly related to physical aspects of cancer and/or treatment (28% of cues and/or concerns, present in 80% of conversations) and prognosis (27% of cues and/or concerns, present in 60% of conversations). Clinicians mostly responded to emotional cues and concerns implicitly, without specifically naming the emotion (85%). Back channeling (using minimal prompts or words that encourage further disclosure, e.g., uh-huh) was the most common implicit response that provided space for emotional disclosure (32% of all responses). Information advice was the most common implicit response that reduced space for further emotional disclosure (28%).
Conclusion: Emotional communication in advanced pediatric cancer appears to be a subtle process where parents offer hints and clinicians respond with non-emotion-laden statements. Also, children were seldom engaged in emotional conversations. Clinicians should aim to create an environment that allows families to express emotional distress if and/or when ready.
Context: Clinicians deciding whether to refer a patient or family to specialty palliative care report facing high levels of uncertainty. Most research on medical uncertainty has focused on prognostic uncertainty. As part of a pediatric palliative referral intervention for oncology teams we explored how uncertainty might influence palliative care referrals.
Objectives: To describe distinct meanings of the term “uncertainty” that emerged during the qualitative evaluation of the development and implementation of an intervention to help oncologists overcome barriers to palliative care referrals.
Methods: We conducted a phenomenological qualitative analysis of “uncertainty” as experienced and described by interdisciplinary pediatric oncology team members in discussions, group activities and semistructured interviews regarding the introduction of palliative care.
Results: We found that clinicians caring for patients with advanced cancer confront seven broad categories of uncertainty: prognostic, informational, individual, communication, relational, collegial, and inter-institutional. Each of these kinds of uncertainty can contribute to delays in referring patients to palliative care.
Conclusion: Various types of uncertainty arise in the care of pediatric patients with advanced cancer. To manage these forms of uncertainty, providers need to develop strategies and techniques to handle professionally challenging situations, communicate bad news, manage difficult interactions with families and colleagues, and collaborate with other organizations.
In 2010, forgoing curative therapies were removed as a hospice eligibility criterion for children through section 2302 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act called Concurrent Care for Children. Given that concurrent care is a federally mandated option for children and their families, no review of the science has been conducted. The purpose of this study was to systematically collect the evidence on concurrent hospice care, critically appraise the evidence, and identify areas for future nursing research. Of the 186 articles identified for review, 14 met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Studies in this review described concurrent hospice care from a variety of perspectives: policy, legal, and ethics. However, only 1 article evaluated the impact of concurrent hospice care on outcomes, whereas several studies explained clinical and state-level implementation. There is a need for further studies that move beyond conceptualization and generate baseline and outcomes data. Understanding the effectiveness of concurrent hospice care might provide important information for future nursing research. The approaches used to disseminate and implement concurrent hospice care at state, provider, and family levels should be explored.
Les équipes ressources régionales en soins palliatifs pédiatriques interviennent à la demande des équipes soignantes qui gravitent autour de l’enfant et de sa famille. Au sein de ces équipes pluriprofessionnelles, la puéricultrice participe à l’élaboration et à la coordination du projet de vie de l’enfant en soins palliatifs en permettant le lien domicile-ville-hôpital. Grâce à son expertise, elle veille à garder l’enfant au centre des préoccupations soignantes en tenant compte de la place des parents.
This case report describes a pediatric hospice provider in Scotland and their experience implementing a telehospice program in response to COVID-19. Children's Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) is the only provider of pediatric hospice care in the entire of Scotland, and we describe their experience offering pediatric telehospice. CHAS had strategically planned to implement telehospice, but COVID-19 accelerated the process. The organization evaluated its pediatric clinical and wrap-around hospice services and rapidly migrated them to a virtual environment. They creatively added new services to meet the unique needs of the entire family, who were caring for a child at end of life during COVID-19. CHAS's experience highlights the planning and implementing processes of telehospice with key lessons learned, while acknowledging the challenges inherent in using technology to deliver hospice care.
Limited research is available on parental decision-making regarding their children's participation in pediatric phase I oncology trials compared with the adult population. The objectives of this review were to describe: (1) the process of parental decision-making in this situation; (2) the optimal communication features physicians need when proposing inclusion in such trials; and (3) the place of the child/adolescent in the assent process. Thirty relevant studies meeting inclusion criteria were identified by searching five computerized databases (PubMed, Web of Science, Cairn, Psychinfo, EM Premium). Parental decision-making is a complex process based on hopeful expectations, multiple family considerations and the child's previous cancer experience. It is highly impacted by the quality of physicians' communication. A therapeutic alliance along with an empathetic attitude and a timely delivery of accurate information is essential. Due weight should be given to the voice of children or adolescents and their optimal level of involvement may be discussed depending on their age and maturity. They should be given age-adapted information in order to empower them to be rightfully and meaningfully involved in early-phase research. This review highlights the main gaps and necessary remedial actions to support an optimal patient care management in this situation. Physicians' training in communication, structured interdisciplinary teamwork and early integration of palliative care are three key challenges which need to be implemented to actively engage in optimization strategies which would improve patient care and family support when offering enrollment in a phase I trial.
Background: End-of-life (EOL) quality markers in adult oncology include home death and intensive care unit avoidance. Corresponding markers are lacking in pediatric oncology. This study was aimed at describing bereaved parents' perspectives of high-quality EOL care in pediatric oncology.
Methods: this study enrolled a convenience sample of 28 bereaved parents (English- or Spanish-speaking) whose children (0-21 years old) had died of cancer =6 months before. Semistructured interviews were conducted to elicit parental perceptions of medically intense/quality EOL care. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim (30 hours), and study team consensus and content analyses identified themes related to EOL quality markers. Related quotes were scored on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (supported comfort care) to 5 (supported medically aggressive care).
Results: The children died in 1998-2017 at a mean age of 10 years (SD, 5.2 years); 50% had a solid tumor, and 46% were Spanish-speaking. Themes included 1) home death preference (unless home support was inadequate; median score, 1.6), nonaggressive care (median score, 2.4), and continued anticancer therapy (median score, 3.2); 2) programs/policies that could alleviate barriers limiting a family's time with a dying child (visiting restrictions and financial strains); 3) the need to prepare the family for death (eg, what would happen to the child's body), and 4) perceived abandonment.
Conclusions: This is the first qualitative study to identify quality makers for children dying of cancer from bereaved parents' perspectives. Natural death is generally preferred, and quality measures that address barriers to parents' spending time with their children, a lack of preparation for the events surrounding death, and feelings of abandonment are critical. Future studies need to validate these findings and develop targeted interventions.
Continuous deep sedation (CDS) is used to alleviate unbearable and otherwise refractory symptoms in patients dying of cancer. No data are available concerning CDS in children from Japan to date. This study primarily aimed to describe experience in CDS in child cancer patients at Kyoto University Hospital. The secondary aims were to identify the characteristics of patients who received CDS, and to assess ability in daily living at the end of life. A retrospective chart review was performed for child cancer patients who died at the institute between 2008 and 2017. The data of 35 patients were analyzed. Nine (26%) patients had received CDS. Indications for CDS were dyspnea (56%), agitation (22%), seizures (22%), and pain (11%). Midazolam was used in all nine cases. In eight (89%) patients, opioids were also prescribed. In seven (78%) patients, CDS was performed for < 48 hours. In all nine cases, consent was obtained from the parent(s) but not from the children. CDS was more likely in patients with solid tumors (p = 0.018) and those who had received no respite sedation (p = 0.002). Patients without central nervous system symptoms tended to maintain their capacity for oral intake and verbal communication until a few days prior to death. This is the first report on CDS in child cancer patients from Japan. In the CDS literature, cross-study differences are evident for incidence, target symptoms, duration, and the decision-making process. Further international discussion is warranted concerning indications for CDS and the decision-making process.
Background: The role of cystic fibrosis (CF) care team members in delivering palliative care (PC) remains undefined. We aimed to understand the PC skills of CF care teams.
Methods: CF care team members (“clinicians”), adults with CF (“patients”), and family caregivers (“caregivers”) rated the ability of CF clinicians to provide aspects of PC using a five-point scale (“poor” to “excellent”). Median ratings were compared between groups.
Results: A total of 70 patients, 100 caregivers, and 350 clinicians participated. Clinicians consistently rated their PC skills higher than patients or caregivers rated them, particularly for advanced PC skills. While clinicians, patients, and caregivers rated clinicians as “very good” at basic pain assessment and “good” at discussing prognostic uncertainty, clinicians rated themselves more highly at providing most skills, including simultaneous PC and standard CF care (P < .0001), basic depression assessment (P < .001), and discussing transplant, advance directives, end of life, code status, and hospice (all P < .0001). Respondents affiliated with adult CF care teams rated clinicians more highly than respondents affiliated with pediatric CF care teams at discussing lung transplant (P < .001), end of life (P = .006), advance directives (P < .001), code status (P = .012), and hospice (P = .016). Most patients (69%) and caregivers (60%) felt CF clinicians should receive more PC training.
Conclusions: Discrepancies exist among patient/caregiver and clinician perceptions of PC skills in CF, and skills of adult and pediatric teams may differ. Patients and caregivers feel clinicians’ more advanced PC skills are lacking. CF clinicians may benefit from PC training to enhance skills and to understand how and when to utilize specialty PC services.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Children with medical or surgical critical illness or injury require skillful attention to physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs, whereas their families need support and guidance in facing life-threatening or life-changing events and gut-wrenching decisions. This article reviews current evidence and best practices for integrating palliative care into the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), with a focus on surgical patients.
RECENT FINDINGS: Palliative care is best integrated in a tiered approach, with primary palliative care provided by the PICU and surgical providers for all patients and families, including basic symptom management, high-quality communication, and end-of-life care. Secondary and tertiary levels of care involve unit or team-based 'champions' with additional expertise, and subspecialty palliative care teams, respectively. PICU and surgical providers should be able to provide primary palliative care, to identify patients and families for whom a palliative care consult would be helpful, and should be comfortable introducing the concept of palliative care to families.
SUMMARY: This review provides a framework and tools to enable PICU and surgical providers to integrate palliative care best practices into patient and family care.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: To familiarize pediatric anesthesiologists with primary palliative care procedural communication skills and recommendations for discussions involving complex medical decision-making or advance care planning, such as discussions about resuscitation status.
RECENT FINDINGS: Recent publications highlight the benefits of pediatric palliative care (PPC) for seriously ill patients and their families, and how PPC principles might be applied to perioperative communication and decision-making. Both prospective and retrospective reports reveal improved quality of life, symptom management, and avoidance of unnecessary interventions when PPC is introduced early for a child with serious illness.
SUMMARY: Pediatric anesthesiologists will, at some point, care for a child with serious illness who would benefit from PPC. It is important that all members of the perioperative care team are familiar with primary PPC procedural communication skills and models for approaching discussions about goals of care, shared decision-making, and advance care planning. Pediatric anesthesiologists should be incorporated as early as possible in team discussions about potential procedures requiring sedation for seriously ill children.
BACKGROUND: Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children in the United States. It is imperative to optimize measures to support patients and families facing the end of a child's life. This study asked bereaved parents to reflect on their child's end-of-life care to identify which components of decision-making, supportive services, and communication were helpful, not helpful, or lacking.
METHODS: An anonymous survey about end-of-life experiences was sent to families of children treated at a single institution who died of a malignancy between 2010 and 2017.
RESULTS: Twenty-eight surveys were returned for a 30.8% response rate. Most of the bereaved parents (61%) reported a desire for shared decision-making; this was described by 52% of families at the end of their child's life. There was a statistically significant association between how well death went and whether the parental perception of actual decision-making aligned with desired decision-making (P = .002). Families did not utilize many of the supportive services that are available including psychology and psychiatry (only 22% used). Respondents felt that additional services would have been helpful.
CONCLUSIONS: Health care providers should strive to participate in decision-making models that align with the preferences of the patient and family and provide excellent communication. Additional resources to support families following the death of a child should be identified for families or developed and funded if a gap in available services is identified.
Background: Specialist paediatric palliative care services are promoted as an important component of palliative care provision, but there is uncertainty about their role for children with cancer.
Aim: To examine the impact of specialist paediatric palliative care for children and young people with cancer and explore factors affecting access.
Design: mixed-methods systematic review and narrative synthesis (PROSPERO Registration No. CRD42017064874).
Data sources: Database (CINAHL, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Embase, MEDLINE, PsycINFO) searches (2000–2019) identified primary studies of any design exploring the impact of and/or factors affecting access to specialist paediatric palliative care. Study quality was assessed using The Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool.
Results: An evidence base of mainly low- and moderate-quality studies (n = 42) shows that accessing specialist paediatric palliative care is associated with less intensive care at the end of life, more advance care planning and fewer in-hospital deaths. Current evidence cannot tell us whether these services improve children’s symptom burden or quality of life. Nine studies reporting provider or family views identified uncertainties about what specialist paediatric palliative care offers, concerns about involving a new team, association of palliative care with end of life and indecision about when to introduce palliative care as important barriers to access. There was evidence that children with haematological malignancies are less likely to access these services.
Conclusion: Current evidence suggests that children and young people with cancer receiving specialist palliative care are cared for differently. However, little is understood about children’s views, and research is needed to determine whether specialist input improves quality of life.
Introduction: Pediatric residents are faced with ethical dilemmas in beginning- and end-of-life situations throughout their training. These situations are innately challenging, yet despite recommendations that residents receive training in ethics and end-of-life domains, they continue to report the need for additional training. To address these concerns, we developed an interactive and reflective palliative care and medical ethics curriculum including sessions focusing on ethical dilemmas at the beginning and end of life.
Methods: This module includes a trio of case-based, small-group discussions on artificial nutrition and hydration, futility, and ethical considerations in neonatology. Content was developed based on a needs assessment, input from local experts, and previously published material. Trainees completed assessments of comfort and understanding before and after each session.
Results: The module was attended and assessed by an average of 27 trainees per session, including residents and medical students. Knowledge of ethical considerations improved after individual sessions, with 86% of trainees reporting understanding ethical considerations involved in the decision to withdraw or withhold medically provided nutrition and hydration and 67% of trainees reporting understanding the use of the term futility. Trainee comfort in providing counseling or recommendations regarding specific ethical issues demonstrated a trend toward improvement but did not reach statistical significance.
Discussion: We successfully implemented this innovative module, which increased trainees' comfort with end-of-life care and ethical conflicts. Future studies should focus on the trainees' ability to implement these skills in clinical practice.
The transfer of critically ill children from intensive care units (ICUs) to their homes for palliation is seldom described. We report our 10-year pediatric palliative transport experience and conducted a survey to gain parents' perspectives of their child's transport experience. Over the study period, eight patients were transported from our pediatric ICU to their homes or hospice facilities. There were no intratransport adverse events. Parents who participated in the survey responded positively to the transport experience. The availability of a dedicated critical care transport service allowed for palliative transfers to be performed safely. Facilitating transport to allow withdrawal of life support at home is an acceptable option to families as part of holistic end-of-life care.
CONTEXT: Racial and ethnic disparities in end-of-life care are well documented among adults with advanced cancer.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the extent to which communication and care differ by race and ethnicity among children with advanced cancer.
METHODS: We conducted a prospective cohort study at 9 pediatric cancer centers enrolling 95 parents (42% racial/ethnic minorities) of children with poor prognosis cancer (relapsed/refractory high risk neuroblastoma). Parents were surveyed about whether prognosis was discussed; likelihood of cure; intent of current treatment; and primary goal of care. Medical records were used to identify higher intensity medical care since the most recent recurrence. Logistic regression evaluated differences between white non-Hispanic and minority (black, Hispanic, Asian/other race) parents.
RESULTS: 26% of parents recognized the child's low likelihood of cure. Minority parents were less likely to recognize the poor prognosis (OR .19, 95%CI .06-.63, P=.006) and the fact that current treatment was unlikely to offer cure (OR .07, 95%CI .02-.27, P<.0001). Children of minority parents were more likely to experience higher intensity medical care (OR 3.01, 95%CI 1.29-7.02, P=.01). After adjustment for understanding of prognosis, race/ethnicity was no longer associated with higher intensity medical care (aOR 2.14, 95%CI .84-5.46, P=.11), although power to detect an association was limited.
CONCLUSION: Parental understanding of prognosis is limited across racial and ethnic groups; racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected. Perhaps as a result, minority children experience higher rates of high intensity medical care. Work to improve prognostic understanding should include focused work to meet needs of minority populations.
Background: Adolescents with brain stem dysfunction may undergo many invasive treatments, and parents are often faced with making the decision to withdraw treatment. However, in the face of their child's death, the spiritual practices of parents dealing with end-of-life decision-making remain under investigated.
Purpose: This study explores the spiritual practices in parents making end-of-life decisions for adolescents on life support with brain stem dysfunction.
Method: A descriptive phenomenological study was conducted through in-depth interviews with three parents of two adolescents in Taiwan. Data were analysed using Colaizzi's seven-step protocol.
Results: Three main themes emerged: (1) faith during decision-making, (2) struggles during decision-making, (3) transformation during decision-making. The findings indicate that "transforming the nature of hope" is the essence of the experience.
Conclusion: Family-centred care, gaining insight into parental spiritual practices, and developing culturally-appropriate care are recommended.
OBJECTIVES: To describe how children currently die in Spanish PICUs, their epidemiologic characteristics and clinical diagnoses.
DESIGN: Prospective multicenter observational study.
SETTING: Eighteen PICUs participating in the MOdos de Morir en UCI Pediátrica-2 (MOMUCI-2) study in Spain.
PATIENTS: Children 1 to 16 years old who died in PICU during 2017 and 2018.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: During the 2-year study period, 250 deaths were recorded. Seventy-three children (29.3%) were younger than 1 year, 131 (52.6%) were between 1 and 12 years old, and 45 (18.1%) were older than 12. One-hundred eighty patients (72%) suffered from an underlying chronic disease, 54 (21.6%) had been admitted to PICU in the past 6 months, and 71 (28.4%) were severely disabled upon admission. Deaths occurred more frequently on the afternoon-night shift (62%) after a median PICU length of stay of 3 days (1-12 d). Nearly half of the patients died (48.8%) after life-sustaining treatment limitation, 71 died (28.4%) despite receiving life-sustaining therapies and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and 57 (22.8%) were declared brain dead. The most frequent type of life-sustaining treatment limitation was the withdrawal of mechanical ventilation (20.8%), followed by noninitiation of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (18%) and withdrawal of vasoactive drugs (13.7%). Life-sustaining treatment limitation was significantly more frequent in patients with an underlying neurologic-neuromuscular disease, respiratory disease as the cause of admission, a previous admission to PICU in the past 6 months, and severe disability. Multivariate analyses indicated that life-sustaining treatment limitation, chronicity, and poor Pediatric Cerebral Performance Category score were closely related.
CONCLUSIONS: Currently, nearly half of the deaths in Spanish PICUs occur after the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments. These children are more likely to have had previous admissions to the PICU, be severely disabled or to suffer from chronic diseases. Healthcare professionals who treat critically ill children ought to be aware of this situation and should therefore be prepared and trained to provide the best end-of-life care possible.
This article explores the ethical challenges of providing Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in a paediatric setting. More specifically, we focus on the theoretical questions that came to light when we were asked to develop a policy for responding to MAID requests at our tertiary paediatric institution. We illuminate a central point of conceptual confusion about the nature of MAID that emerges at the level of practice, and explore the various entailments for clinicians and patients that would flow from different understandings. Finally, we consider the ethical challenges of building policy on what is still an extremely controversial social practice. While MAID is currently available to capable patients in Canada who are 18 years or older-a small but important subsection of the population our hospital serves-we write our policy with an eye to the near future when capable young people may gain access to MAID. We propose that an opportunity exists for MAID-providing institutions to reduce social stigma surrounding this practice, but not without potentially serious consequences for practitioners and institutions themselves. Thus, this paper is intended as a road map through the still-emerging legal and ethical landscape of paediatric MAID. We offer a view of the roads taken and considered along the way, and our justifications for travelling the paths we chose. By providing a record of our in-progress thinking, we hope to stimulate wider discussion about the issues and questions encountered in this work.
BACKGROUND: Despite improvements in palliative care for critically ill children, the characteristics of end-of-life care for pediatric patients with advanced heart disease are not well-known. We investigated these characteristics among hospitalized children with advanced heart disease in a tertiary referral center in Korea.
METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed the records of 136 patients with advanced heart disease who died in our pediatric department from January 2006 through December 2013.
RESULTS: The median age of patients at death was 10.0 months (range 1 day-28.3 years). The median duration of the final hospitalization was 16.5 days (range 1-690 days). Most patients (94.1%) died in the intensive care unit and had received mechanical ventilation (89.7%) and inotropic agents (91.2%) within 24 hours of death. The parents of 74 patients (54.4%) had an end-of-life care discussion with their physician, and the length of stay of these patients in the intensive care unit and in hospital was longer. Of the 90 patients who had been hospitalized for 7 days or more, the parents of 54 patients (60%) had a documented end-of-life care discussion. The time interval from the end-of-life care discussion to death was 3 days or less for 25 patients.
CONCLUSION: Children dying of advanced heart disease receive intensive treatment at the end of life. Discussions regarding end-of-life issues are often postponed until immediately prior to death. A pediatric palliative care program must be implemented to improve the quality of death in pediatric patients with heart disease.