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Some Parents Consider Hastening a Sick Child's Death
Date:3/1/2010

Desire to save kids terminally ill with cancer from further pain prompts feelings, survey finds

MONDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- Watching a child die of cancer is unimaginably heartbreaking for parents, and now a new survey shows that the urge to protect terminally ill children from any further pain led one in eight parents to consider hastening their child's death.

Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston asked 141 parents of children who had died of cancer about their experiences at the end of the child's life.

About 13 percent of parents said they had considered asking caregivers about ending their child's life, and 9 percent actually had the discussion. Five parents, or 4 percent, asked for medications to end their child's life. Only three parents said they had hastened their child's death using medication. All three parents said they'd used morphine.

The parents' main motivation was sparing their child unnecessary pain, according to the survey. Of all parents surveyed, about 34 percent said they would have considered hastening death if the child had been in uncontrollable pain.

"It's one of life's greatest tragedies to be facing the death of a child," said the study's senior author, Dr. Joanne Wolfe, chief of pediatric palliative care at Dana-Farber and director of palliative care at Children's Hospital Boston. "It's also very difficult as a clinician to be taking care of a dying child. We aim to cure the child, or at least give them a very, very long life. Unfortunately, we are at a stage where some children do succumb to their illnesses. We have an equal obligation to ensure they are as comfortable as possible at the end of life."

A report on the survey is in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Dr. John Lantos, a pediatric bioethicist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., noted that the ter
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