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Ethical and end of life considerations for neonates requiring ECMO support

Journal title
Seminars in perinatology
Publication year
Kirsch, R.; Munson, D.

ECMO has proven to be a life-saving intervention for a variety of disease entities with a high rate of survival in the neonatal population. However, ECMO requires clinical teams to engage in many ethical considerations. Even with ongoing improvements in technology and expertise, some patients will not survive a course of ECMO. An unsuccessful course of ECMO can be difficult to accept and cause a great deal of angst. These questions can result in real conflict both within the care team, and between the care team and the family. Herein we explore a range of ethical considerations that may be encountered when caring for a patient on ECMO, with a particular focus on those courses where it appears likely that the patient will not survive. We then consider how a palliative care approach may provide a tool set to help engage the team and family in confronting the difficult decision to discontinue ECMO.

Research abstracts