Recent Changes in End-of-Life Decisions for Newborns in a Korean Hospital

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Abstract

Introduction:

Despite recent advances in neonatal intensive care in Korea, few studies exist on the end-of-life decisions in newborns. In this study, we sought to examine the status of end-of-life decisions in neonates, changes over time, and affecting factors.

Methods:

This is a retrospective study of neonates who died between 2001 and 2015 in the neonatal intensive care unit of Dong-A University Hospital in Busan. The types of end-of-life decisions were divided into active resuscitation, withholding treatment, and withdrawing treatment. The study period was divided into 3 time frames using 5-year intervals to investigate changes over time. To identify the associated factors, we analyzed the demographic and clinical characteristics of the neonates and their parents using the χ2 test and independent t test.

Results:

Of the neonatal deaths included in the analysis (n = 222), active resuscitation, withholding treatment, and withdrawing treatment groups accounted for 73.4%, 25.2%, and 1.4% of cases, respectively. When comparing changes over time, between period 1 (2001-2005), 2 (2006-2010), and 3 (2011-2015), the proportion of active resuscitation decreased significantly, from 80.9% to 60.8%, while that of nonactive resuscitation increased significantly from 19.1% to 39.2%. The factors associated with end-of-life decisions were the clinical condition of the neonate at the time of death, rather than general characteristics or socioeconomic factors.

Conclusions:

In Korea, changes in the decisions on end-of-life care in neonates are shifting from active resuscitation to nonactive resuscitation based on clinical conditions.

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