Advance care planning: challenges and approaches for pediatricians

J Palliat Med. 2014 Sep;17(9):1049-53. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2013.0374. Epub 2014 Jun 23.


Background: There is increasing recognition of the value of advance care planning for children with life-limiting conditions. It is important that we acknowledge and reflect on the challenges that this work presents in order to optimize practice.

Objective: Our aim was to review advance care planning for children with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions (LTLLCs) in our local area.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective case note review. Study subjects were from two National Health Service (NHS) Trusts in Bristol in the United Kingdom. Cases were identified from Child Death Overview Panel data. Forty-two sets of case notes were reviewed in relation to 20 children. Measurements included quantitative and qualitative review of advance care planning in relation to standards set by The Association for Children's Palliative Care (ACT).

Results: In 25% of cases there was no documented discussion with families about the approach to end of life (EOL). In 25% of cases there was no evidence of an advance care plan, and the content and accessibility of those that did exist was variable. Forty-five percent of families were not offered a choice with regard to location of care (LOC) in the last months of life and 50% were not offered a choice about location of death (LOD).

Conclusions: We hope that acknowledgement of some of the challenges, alongside recognition of the clear benefits, of planning will help pediatricians to deliver this important area of care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advance Care Planning / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Advance Care Planning / standards*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Pediatrics / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Pediatrics / standards*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminally Ill*
  • Truth Disclosure