Children's outcomes at 2-year follow-up after 4 years of structured multi-professional medical-ethical decision-making in a neonatal intensive care unit

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

We reviewed our decisions about continuation/withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments in a group of critically ill newborns who were discussed in structured medical ethical decision-making meetings, and provide the surviving children's outcomes at 2-year follow-up.

STUDY DESIGN:

In an explorative observational study, 61 cases were evaluated. The children involved had been discussed in such a structured way from 2009 to 2012 in a level III-D neonatal intensive care unit.

RESULTS:

Decisions made were: full treatment (n = 6), earlier restriction cancelled (n = 3), treatment restriction (n = 30) and palliative care (n = 22). Parents of six children disagreed with the decision proposed. Thirteen (54%) of the 24 children who survived (39%) had moderate to severe neurological problems; 8 (33%) had additional sequelae; only one 2-year-old child was healthy.

CONCLUSIONS:

Decisions made varied to a large extent. The poor outcomes should be disseminated among decision makers. Future studies must explore new ways to improve outcome prediction, extend follow-up periods and consider what living with severe handicaps really means for both child and family.

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