This gets into the thorny issue of ‘who knows best’ and parenting. While the headline makes it sound like a big issue, in about 90 percent of cases, there was no disagreement between the doctors and parents. Some of the cases where religious beliefs were at issue were resolved through involving the parents meeting with their faith leaders outside the hospital. Most religions were represented in this study.
While the authors recommend quicker access to the courts to resolve these issues, I am not sure the courts should be used except as a last resort. Better to take some more time in discussion, including with religious leaders, to hopefully allow parents and families come to terms with what is either way an extremely painful decision and time.
Although religion provides needed support for many families of critically ill patients, the investigators found hopes for divine intervention are increasingly causing children to be subjected to aggressive medical treatment that is not in their best interest. The ethics and legality of these cases should be reevaluated, the study authors suggested.
The study, conducted by a team of intensive care doctors and a hospital chaplain, involved a review of 203 cases in which parents were forced to make end-of-life decisions for their children.
The researchers found that in 186 of these cases, the children’s parents and their doctors were in agreement about the withdrawal of aggressive medical care that would ultimately be ineffective.