Ethical Considerations for Care of the Child Undergoing Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

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Abstract

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a complex, highly technical surgical procedure that can offer hope for children born with congenital heart defects. The procedure may only briefly prolong a life, has limited potential for decreasing mortality, and may lead to serious complications, however. Perioperative nurses play an important role in caring for the child who requires ECMO. They are involved in assessing the child, implementing the plan of care, and facilitating communication between the child's family members and the health care team. Thus, perioperative nurses have a responsibility to consider the broad range of ethical issues associated with the procedure. By examining the ethical concepts of beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, justice, and moral distress, the perioperative nurse can better understand the dilemmas that can affect the care and outcome of the critically ill child who requires ECMO.

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