Decision-making and Poor Prognosis: When Death is Silenced by Action

Med Anthropol. 2022 Feb-Mar;41(2):183-196. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2021.1928662. Epub 2021 Jun 16.


In the hospital milieu, daily questions relate to highly invested areas such as quality of life and death issues, choices to continue or stop active treatment, and the legitimacy of those who take part in such decisions. Stemming from an ethnographic study carried out in a hematology-oncology transplant unit in a Montreal pediatric hospital, we discuss the decision-making process (or lack thereof) when a patient faces poor prognosis and the change of trajectory from a curative/disease directed to a palliative perspective. The intricate relationship between science, caregiver, and care receiver sustains action even when (near) death is the probable outcome.

Keywords: Decision-making; hope; medical culture; oncology; palliative care; pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Medical
  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care
  • Quality of Life*