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

m "hastening death" is different from what is normally considered euthanasia or assisted suicide. In assisted suicide, patients are given medication or anesthetics with the express purpose of ending their life. The parents in the survey who said they hastened their child's death used morphine. The purpose of that may have been to ease the child's pain, with a side effect being the possibility of hastening death, instead of death being an explicit goal.

"Hastening death is not the same as euthanasia or assisted suicide," Lantos said. "It's an important, subtle distinction."

In the study, the parents, who were interviewed a year or more after their child's death, were asked about their feelings on hypothetical vignettes involving a terminally ill child in excruciating pain. About half of the parents said they would consider hastening the death of a child in uncontrollable pain or an irreversible coma.

None of the parents said they would think of hastening a child's death because of the burden of caring for them, and just one said that the cost of medical care would be a consideration.

Though end-of-life care for older people has gotten more attention in recent years, the subject has not been well-studied among children, Wolfe said.

"It's heart-wrenching, and that's a big reason why we tend not to talk about these issues as much," Wolfe said. "But the end result is children and their families are not getting the attention that they deserve and their needs met."

The field of hospice and palliative care has improved in recent years, with strides being made to better manage both physical pain and help support families and terminally ill children in dealing with their emotional pain, existential pain and anxiety, Wolfe said.

"However, I think we still have a long way to go," she said. "We can't honestly promise parents their child's end of life will be pain-free."

Wolfe said there is a gr
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