Together for Short Lives
Call the Helpline 0808 8088 100

How parents and physicians experience end-of-life decision-making for children with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities

Journal title
Research in developmental disabilities
Publication year
Zaal-Schuller, I. H.; Willems, D. L.; Ewals, F. V.; van Goudoever, J. B.; de Vos, M. A.

BACKGROUND: End-of-life decisions (EoLD) often concern children with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD). Yet, little is known about how parents and physicians discuss and make these decisions. AIMS: The objective of this research was to investigate the experiences of the parents and the involved physician during the end-of-life decision-making (EoLDM) process for children with PIMD. METHODS: In a retrospective, qualitative study, we conducted semi-structured interviews with the physicians and parents of 14 children with PIMD for whom an EoLD was made within the past two years. RESULTS: A long-lasting relationship appeared to facilitate the EoLDM process, although previous negative healthcare encounters could also lead to distrust. Parents and physicians encountered disagreements during the EoLDM process, but these disagreements could also improve the decision-making process. Most parents, as well as most physicians, considered the parents to be the experts on their child. In making an EoLD, both parents and physicians preferred a shared decision-making approach, although they differed in what they actually meant by this concept. CONCLUSION: The EoLDM process for children with PIMD can be improved if physicians are more aware of the specific situation and of the roles and expectations of the parents of children with PIMD.

Research abstracts