To Die or Not To Die? A Review of Simulated Death

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Abstract

Summary Statement

Simulation as an educational technique is increasingly used in health care to teach about managing critical events and life-threatening situations and, infrequently, to teach about death. There is considerable controversy over whether to allow the simulator to die during a session when death is not a predefined learning objective. Some educators never allow the simulator to die unless death is the objective of the scenario, and others allow the simulator to die unexpectedly during any scenario. We do not know whether such a fatal event may affect a student’s learning process and emotions, and no randomized trials have been conducted to determine the impact of simulated death. In this narrative review, we survey the literature on simulated death during health care training, present arguments for and against the broad incorporation of such training in curricula for health care providers, and outline recommendations for using death scenarios in health care simulation.

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