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Family presence during resuscitation: extending ethical norms from paediatrics to adults

Journal title
Journal of medical ethics
Publication year
Vincent, C.; Lederman, Z.

Many families of patients hold the view that it is their right to be present during a loved one’s resuscitation, while the majority of patients also express the comfort and support they would feel by having them there. Currently, family presence is more commonly accepted in paediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) than adult CPR. Even though many guidelines are in favour of this practice and recognise potential benefits, healthcare professionals are hesitant to support adult family presence to the extent that paediatric family presence is supported. However, in this paper, we suggest that the ethical case to justify family presence during paediatric resuscitation (P-FPDR) is weaker than the justification of family presence during adult resuscitation (A-FPDR). We go on to support this claim using three main arguments that people use in clinical ethics to justify FPDR. These include scarcity of evidence documenting disruption, psychological benefits to family members following the incident and respect for patient autonomy. We demonstrate that these arguments actually apply more strongly to A-FPDR compared with P-FPDR, thereby questioning the common attitude of healthcare professionals of allowing the latter while mostly opposing A-FPDR. Importantly, we do not wish to suggest that P-FPDR should not be allowed. Rather, we suggest that since P-FPDR is commonly (and should be) allowed, so should A-FPDR. This is because the aforementioned arguments that are used to justify FPDR in general actually make a stronger case for A-FPDR.

Research abstracts