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Discussing Death as a Possible Outcome of PICU Care

Journal title
Pediatric critical care medicine : a journal of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies
Publication year
Gilleland, J. C.; Parshuram, C. S.
8S Suppl 2

OBJECTIVES: To describe practical considerations related to discussions about death or possible death of a critically ill child. DATA SOURCES: Personal experience and reflection. Published English language literature. STUDY SELECTION: Selected illustrative studies. DATA EXTRACTION: Not available. DATA SYNTHESIS: Narrative and experiential review were used to describe the following areas benefits and potential adverse consequences of conversations about risk of death and the timing of, preparation for, and conduct of conversations about risk of death. CONCLUSIONS: Timely conversations about death as a possible outcome of PICU care are an important part of high-quality ICU care. Not all patients "require" these conversations; however, identifying patients for whom conversations are indicated should be an active process. Informed conversations require preparation to provide the best available objective information. Information should include distillation of local experience, incorporate the patients’ clinical trajectory, the potential impact(s) of alternate treatments, describe possible modes of death, and acknowledge the extent of uncertainty. We suggest the more factual understanding of risk of death should be initially separated from the more inherent value-laden treatment recommendations and decisions. Gathering and sharing of collective knowledge, conduct of additional investigations, and time can increase the factual content of risk of death discussions. Timely and sensitive delivery of this best available knowledge then provides foundation for high-quality treatment recommendations and decision-making.

Research abstracts