An Ethical Justification for Termination of Resuscitation Protocols for Pediatric Patients

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The aim of this article was to compare specific characteristics and outcomes among adult and pediatric out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) patients to show that the existing literature warrants the design and implementation of pediatric studies that would specifically evaluate termination of resuscitation protocols. We also address the emotional and practical concerns associated with ceasing resuscitation efforts on scene when treating pediatric patients.


Relevant prospective and retrospective studies were used to compare characteristics and outcomes between adult and pediatric OHCA patients. Characteristics analyzed were nonwitnessed arrests, absence of shockable rhythm, no return of spontaneous circulation, and survival to hospital discharge.


Cases of unwitnessed arrests by emergency medical services providers are substantially the same in pediatric patients (41.0%–96.3%) compared with their adult counterparts (47.4%–97.7%). The adult studies revealed 57.6% to 92.2% of patients without an initial shockable rhythm. The pediatric studies showed a range of 64.0% to 98.0%. The range of adult patients without return of spontaneous circulation was 54.8% to 95.4%, and the range in pediatric patients was 68.2% to 95.6%. Survival rates among the adult studies ranged from 0.8% to 9.3% (mean, 5.0%; median, 5.2%), and in the pediatric studies they were 2.0% to 26.2% (mean, 9.2%; median, 7.7%).


The data compared demonstrate that characteristics and outcomes are virtually identical between adult and pediatric OHCA patients. We also found the 3 chief barriers hindering further research to be invalid impediments to moving forward. This review warrants designing pediatric studies that would specifically correlate termination of resuscitation protocols with patient survival and include predictive values.

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