Docs' role in end-of-life talks with parents and their dying children

By Aine Cryts

It's the conversation no physician--or parent--wants to have. Still, physicians have a role to play as coach when a parent needs to have an end-of-life conversation with a child who's dying, according to STAT News.

These children are thinking about the possibility of their death before adults bring it up in conversations. "It's just that the topic hasn't been given any air," Jennifer Mack, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Clinic, told the publication.

There are many reasons end-of-life conversations don't happen: A child's response to therapy is often unpredictable, and that makes knowing that the end is near difficult. Often, children with terminal illnesses, just like adults, struggle with acceptance of their possible death, the article noted.

But parents are more likely to discuss death with their children if physicians are willing to talk about it, Mack said.

However, physicians must relearn the art of caring for the dying. Getting comfortable with the word "death" is important, as is physicians taking the time to be present for patients and their families to guide them through the dying process. 

To learn more:
- read the article