The death of a child in the emergency department

Ann Emerg Med. 2003 Oct;42(4):519-29. doi: 10.1067/s0196-0644(03)00424-4.


The death of a child in the emergency department (ED) is often overwhelming to the child's community, including the health care providers involved in that child's care. Sudden death, especially of a child, induces a strong emotional response in health care providers and in the families involved. Advanced preparation by emergency staff is vital to appropriately care for the patient, the grieving family, and the ED staff. The American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics have jointly adopted a policy statement entitled "Death of a Child in the Emergency Department Joint Statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Emergency Physicians." The purpose of this article is to provide the emergency physician with information related to the management of children and their families who die in the ED. The following important issues will be discussed: a family and team-centered approach when a child dies, support for families and communities, communication within the child's medical home, identification of resources for use when a child dies, and critical incident stress management.

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Hospital Mortality*
  • Humans
  • Organizational Policy
  • Pediatrics*
  • Professional-Family Relations*