Parent Priorities in End-of-Life Care for Children With Cancer

JAMA Netw Open. 2023 May 1;6(5):e2313503. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.13503.


Importance: Robust quality measures to benchmark end-of-life care for children with cancer do not currently exist; 28 candidate patient-centered quality measures were previously developed.

Objective: To prioritize quality measures among parents who lost a child to cancer.

Design, setting, and participants: This survey study was conducted using an electronic, cross-sectional discrete choice experiment (DCE) with maximum difference scaling from January to June 2021 in the US. In each of 21 questions in the DCE, participants were presented with a set of 4 quality measures and were asked to select the most and least important measures within each set. All 28 quality measures were presented an equal number of times in different permutations. In the volunteer sample, 69 eligible bereaved parents enrolled in the study; 61 parents completed the DCE (participation rate, 88.4%).

Main outcomes and measures: Using choices participants made, a hierarchical bayesian multinomial logistic regression was fit to derive mean importance scores with 95% credible intervals (95% Crs) for each quality measure, representing the overall probability of a quality measure being selected as most important. Importance scores were rescaled proportionally from 0 to 100, with the sum of scores for all quality measures adding up to 100. This enabled interpretation of scores as the relative importance of quality measures.

Results: Participants included 61 bereaved parents (median [range] age, 48 [24-74] years; 55 individuals self-identified as women [90.2%]; 1 American Indian or Alaska Native [1.6%], 1 Asian [1.6%], 2 Black or African American [3.3%], 1 Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 58 White [91.8%]; 58 not Hispanic or Latinx [95.1%]). Highest-priority quality measures by mean importance score included having a child's symptoms treated well (9.25 [95% Cr, 9.06-9.45]), feeling that a child's needs were heard by the health care team (8.39 [95% Cr, 8.05-8.73]), and having a goal-concordant end-of-life experience (7.45 [95% Cr, 6.84-8.05]). Lowest-priority quality measures included avoiding chemotherapy (0.33 [95% Cr, 0.21-0.45]), provision of psychosocial support for parents (1.01 [95% Cr, 0.57-1.45]), and avoiding the intensive care unit (1.09 [95% Cr, 0.74-1.43]). Rank-ordering measures by mean importance revealed that symptom management was 9 times more important to parents than psychosocial support for themselves.

Conclusions and relevance: This study found that bereaved parents prioritized end-of-life quality measures focused on symptom management and goal-concordant care while characterizing quality measures assessing their own psychosocial support and their child's hospital resource use as substantially less important. These findings suggest that future research should explore innovative strategies to measure care attributes that matter most to families of children with advanced cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Death
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms* / psychology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Parents / psychology
  • Terminal Care* / psychology