New UK Guidelines: Terminally-ill Children’s Views Should Be Heard

On Tuesday, Britain expressed a new guidance for doctors on treating extremely or terminally ill children to strongly admonish the children’s perspective on whether they want to live or die should be taken into account.

From Britain’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the directions will be observed carefully around the world. Experts said that since Britain is one of the few countries to have a foundation to assist the doctor’s decision if and when to remove life-sustaining treatment from a child.

Joe Brierley, a pediatric and neonatal intensive care consultant at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, said “This is not an easy area of medicine. Sadly, every child’s life can’t be saved. Other countries are listening to what we’re saying and following what we’re doing.”

The assistance, taken up by doctors, lawyers and medical ethicists, recommends that for the first time that ailing children as young as nine who still have a little hope of a satisfying life should be given the right to voice out whether their treatment should stop.

The advice says that a child who has had numerous chemotherapy sessions, a bone marrow or an organ transplant that has not worked out right “will have a more knowledgeable outlook about continuing such treatment that an adult dealing with the treatment for the first time.”

A past consultant in pediatrics and ethics, and co-author of the guidance, Vi Larcher, said it wanted to address “a fundamental concern that we’re doing too much for too many for too long”.

Improvements in medicine means that babies that are being born too soon are increasing and some born as early as 22 weeks development are able to survive. Thanks to the medical process, older children with ailments such as severe head injuries now have a better chance for survival.

 

Yet the rules advise that doctors should take into careful consideration as to whether or not continuing treatment is always the right thing for and ailing child.

Simon Newell, a neonatal consultant at Britain’s Leeds General Infirmary, said that “For some, continuing life-sustaining treatment is simply continuing the child from suffering in the face of the unavoidable.”

“For (some) babies, no treatment is going to heal them and their quality of life is non-existent,” he told a briefing.

Previous assistance suggested that doctors should not revive or give intensive care to premature babies born at 22 weeks of development or less. Babies born at 22 to 23 weeks should only attempt treatment if parents and other guardians agree.

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