The Case for Advance Care Planning in the NICU

Pediatrics. 2022 Dec 1;150(6):e2022057824. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-057824.


Many NICUs have reached an inflection point where infant deaths following limitation of life-sustaining treatments outnumber those following unsuccessful resuscitations, and many infants who survive continue to require intensive supports. Families of such infants with serious illness may benefit from a standardized, process-oriented approach in decisional-support. Advance care planning (ACP), or communication that supports patients, or their surrogate decision-makers, in sharing values, goals, and preferences for future medical care, is recognized as a valuable strategy in supporting adults with serious and chronic illness. Although the role of ACP in older children and adolescents is evolving, its utility has not been systematically explored in the perinatal context. This article builds a case for formalizing a role for ACP in the NICU by defining ACP and appraising recent outcomes research, reviewing the current state of parental needs for decisional support and serious illness in the NICU, and describing how ACP may address current limitations in primary and specialty pediatric palliative care and challenges for decision-making in the newborn period.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advance Care Planning*
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Palliative Care