Parents Make Decisions Based on Hope, Not Science

September 22, 2008

Parents of babies who die as a result of extreme prematurity or potentially lethal congenital abnormalities report that religion, spirituality and hope guided their decisions about resuscitation rather than the physician's predictions about morbidity and death, according to an article published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

MONDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Parents of babies who die as a result of extreme prematurity or potentially lethal congenital abnormalities report that religion, spirituality and hope guided their decisions about resuscitation rather than the physician's predictions about morbidity and death, according to an article published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

Renee D. Boss, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues interviewed 26 mothers of infants and accessed their medical charts for documented information on discussions regarding delivery room resuscitation. All reported a desire to participate in the resuscitation decision-making process.

Despite the fact that medical charts documented discussions between the doctor and parents regarding delivery room resuscitation options, few parents recalled these discussions and even fewer recalled being offered the option of comfort care, the research indicated. Instead, religion, spirituality and hope were the primary factors that guided the parents' decision-making, the investigators found.

"Some parents felt that they had not made any decisions regarding resuscitation and instead 'left things in God's hands.' These parents typically were documented by staff members to 'want everything done,'" the authors write. "The values that parents in this study applied to decision-making regarding delivery room resuscitation, including religion, spirituality and hope, are not routinely incorporated by physicians. This discordance in communication may contribute to confusion about what has been discussed and how decisions have been made."

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