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Decision-making at the limit of viability: the Austrian neonatal choice context

Journal title
BMC pediatrics
Publication year
Stanak, M.; Hawlik, K.

BACKGROUND: We aimed to explore the shared decision-making context at the limit of viability (weeks 22-25 of gestation) through analyzing neonatologist’s communication strategies with parents and their possible impact on survival and neurodevelopmental impairment (NDI) outcomes. METHODS: A mixed methods approach was applied where a systematic literature search and in-depth semi-structured interviews with five heads of neonatology departments and one clinical ethicist from the Austrian context were integrated into a literature review. The aim was to identify decision practice models and the choice context specific to Austria. RESULTS: Professional biases, parental understanding, and the process of information giving were identified as aspects possibly influencing survival and NDI outcomes. Institutions create self-fulfilling prophecies by recommending intensive/palliative care based upon their institutional statistics, yet those vary considerably among high-income countries. Labelling an extremely preterm (EP) infant by the gestational week was shown to skew the estimates for survival while the process of information giving was shown to be subject to framing effect and other cognitive biases. CONCLUSION: Communication strategies of choice options to parents may have an impact on the way parents decide and hence also on the outcomes of EP infants.

Research abstracts