Moral distress in pediatric palliative care: a case study

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2009 Jul;38(1):157-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.04.014.


End-of-life decisions for children can be complicated by disagreements between families and health care teams. These conflicts can lead to moral distress in providers. In addition, difficulties in prognostication aggravate the problem. How teams and institutions address potential staff distress is essential to providing effective palliative care for children. Through a case study of a child with a severe life-limiting syndrome, an analysis of both the ethical and legal implications of parental and team conflict are discussed. An ethics team can help provide guidance for teams and help mediate goals of care discussions with families. Palliative care consultation can also be useful, especially in providing support for both the parent and the child.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Holoprosencephaly / nursing*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • New York
  • Palliative Care / ethics*
  • Palliative Care / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Pediatrics / ethics*
  • Pediatrics / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics*