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Parental Decision-Making Preferences in Neonatal Intensive Care

Journal title
The Journal of pediatrics
Publication year
Weiss, E. M.; Barg, F. K.; Cook, N.; Black, E.; Joffe, S.

OBJECTIVE: To explore how characteristics of medical decisions influence parents’ preferences for control over decisions for their seriously ill infants. STUDY DESIGN: In qualitative interviews, parents of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) were asked to consider all medical decisions they could recall, and were prompted with decisions commonly encountered in the NICU. For each decision, parents were asked detailed questions about who made each decision, whom they would have preferred to make the decision, and why. Using standard qualitative methods, responses were coded and organized such that decision-level characteristics could be analyzed according to preferred decision-making role. RESULTS: Parents identified 2 factors that were associated with a preference to delegate decisions to the medical team (high degree of urgency, high level of required medical expertise) and 4 factors associated with a preference to retain parental control (high perceived risk, high personal experience with the decision, involvement of foreign bodily fluids, and similarity to decisions that they perceived as part of the normal parental role). CONCLUSIONS: Characteristics of decisions influence preferences for control over medical decisions among parents of patients in the NICU. These insights may guide improvements in physician-parent communication and consent.

Research abstracts