Decision-Making in the Era of New Medical Technologies in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology: The Death of Palliative Care?

J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2021 Oct 1;43(7):271-276. doi: 10.1097/MPH.0000000000002058.


Background: Recent advances in immunology, genomics, and cellular therapy have opened numerous therapeutic possibilities in pediatric hematology-oncology, generating new hope in poor prognosis situations. How decisions are made when it comes to treatments and aims needs to be explored in this new technologic context. In particular, their impact on the gold standard of early referral to palliative care must be assessed.

Materials and methods: Stemming from an ethnographic study combining semistructured interviews and observations carried out in a hematopoietic stem cell transplant unit in a Montréal Pediatric Hospital, we discuss the decision-making process when a patient faces poor prognosis.

Results and discussion: Although health care providers individually envisioned that palliative care may be the best course of action for patients receiving emergent therapy, they remained collectively in the curative mode. The intricate relationship between science, hope, caregiver, and care receiver sustains this perspective even when (near) death is the probable outcome. When proven treatment fails, emerging therapeutic possibilities offer new hope that can delay the referral to the palliative care team.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Technology / methods*
  • Child
  • Decision Making*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / standards*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / psychology
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*