Not just little adults: a review of 102 paediatric ethics consultations

Acta Paediatr. 2015 May;104(5):529-34. doi: 10.1111/apa.12940. Epub 2015 Feb 19.


Aim: The American Academy of Pediatrics statement on institutional ethics committees highlights the importance of paediatric ethics consultation. However, little has been published on actual experience with ethics consultation in paediatrics. The objective of this study was to review and describe topics covered by a large retrospective sample of clinical ethics consultations in paediatric medicine.

Methods: We reviewed ethics consultations involving patients of <18 years of age from January 2005 to July 2013 at one institution. Descriptive statistics of the patient population, the reason for the ethics consultation and the consultant's perceived contribution to the case were generated. Subgroups of patients were compared based on demographic and clinical characteristics using Wilcoxon's rank sum tests, chi-square tests and logistic regression models.

Results: Most of the 102 eligible consultations originated from intensive care units and were requested by attending physicians. The most frequent topic leading to consultation was end-of-life issues. Both younger age and male sex were associated with consults for end-of-life issues (p < 0.001 and p = 0.010).

Conclusion: This analysis provides important information describing the type of consults requested in paediatric medicine, which is necessary given the movement towards professionalising clinical ethics consultation. Further empirical research is needed on ethics consultation in paediatrics.

Keywords: Consultation; End-of-life; Ethics; Informed consent.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ethics Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / ethics*
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies