Journal Article

Decision making concerning life-sustaining treatment in paediatric nephrology: professionals' experiences and values

Isabelle Fauriel, Grégoire Moutel, Nathalie Duchange, Luc Montuclard, Marie-Laure Moutard, Pierre Cochat and Christian Hervé

in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation

Published on behalf of European Renal Association - European Dialysis and Transplant Assoc

Volume 20, issue 12, pages 2746-2750
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0931-0509
Published online September 2005 | e-ISSN: 1460-2385 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ndt/gfi160
Decision making concerning life-sustaining treatment in paediatric nephrology: professionals' experiences and values

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Background. In a previous article, we studied decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment (LST) taken between 1995 and 2001 in 31 French-speaking paediatric nephrology centres. Files were available for 18 of the 31 centres. A grid was used to analyse the criteria on which decisions were based, and the results were enriched by an analysis of interviews with the doctors at these centres (31 interviews with doctors from the 18 centres). The goal was to describe in detail and to specify the criteria on which decisions to withhold or withdraw LST were based, in cases extracted from the files. The second paper deals exclusively with the interviews with doctors and analyses their lifetime's experience and perception.

Methods. We carried out semi-directed interviews with nephrologists from all the paediatric nephrology centres in France and the French-speaking regions of Switzerland and Belgium.

Results. We interviewed 46 paediatric nephrologists. Most were aware that decisions relating to LST are necessary and based on the assessment of the child's quality of life. According to them, decisions are not based on scientific criteria, but on the capacity to accept handicap, the family's past experiences and the doctor's own projections. They report that their task is particularly difficult when their action may contribute to death (withdrawal of treatment or acceleration of the process). They feel that their duty is to help the families in the acceptance of the doctors’ decision rather than to encourage their participation in the decision-making process (DMP).

Conclusions. This article shows that paediatric nephrologists differ in their opinions, mostly due to their own ethical convictions. This observation highlights the need to establish common rules taking into account the views held by doctors. This is the only way to establish an ethical code shared by professionals.

Keywords: dialysis; ethics; life-sustaining treatments; nephrology; paediatrics; treatment withholding or withdrawal

Journal Article.  3407 words. 

Subjects: Nephrology

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