Approaches to the initiation of life-sustaining technology in children: A scoping review of changes over time

J Child Health Care. 2021 Dec;25(4):509-522. doi: 10.1177/1367493520961884. Epub 2020 Sep 23.


Little is understood about the dynamic circumstances within which the initiation of technology dependence takes place in children. The aim of this scoping review was to identify the influences on the initiation of technology dependence and the issues that require further exploration and consideration. Scientific literature that directly or indirectly discussed the initiation of technology dependence in children was identified. A three-stage screening process of title and abstract scrutiny, full-text scanning and in-depth full-text reading resulted in 63 relevant articles from 1133 initially reviewed. These were then subjected to descriptive and thematic analysis. Articles ranged from the 1970s to the present, reflecting the evolution of ethical debates around the approaches to clinical practice and changes in cultural and societal attitudes. Three themes emerged: how technology alters the meaning of futile care, dissonance in the perspectives of decision makers and increasing support for joint decision-making. Only articles in English and predominantly from the clinician's rather than the patient's perspective were included. Societal and cultural factors as well as the structural, financial and cultural environment influence the initiation of technology dependence in children. However, to what extent these overt and implicit influences guide decision-makers in this field remains largely unknown.

Keywords: Decision-making; ethics; technology-dependent child.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Technology*