[Medical end-of-life decisions in neonates and infants in Flanders, Belgium; 1999/2000]
Provoost, V × Cools, Filip Mortier, F Bilsen, J Ramet, J Vandenplas, Y Deliens, L #
Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde vol:150 issue:7 pages:377-82
OBJECTIVE: To determine the number of medical end-of-life decisions in critically ill neonates and infants in Flanders, Belgium. DESIGN: Retrospective. METHOD: A death certificate study on all deaths of neonates and infants in the whole of Flanders was carried out over a i2-month period (August 1999-July 2000). An anonymous questionnaire was sent by mail to the attending physician of each of the 292 children who died under the age of 1 year. All physicians who had attended at least one death during the study period were included in an attitude study. RESULTS: A total of 253 (87%) of the 292 questionnaires were returned and 121 (69%) of the 175 physicians involved completed the questions on attitude. An end-of-life decision had been possible in 194 (77%; 95% CI: 70.4-82.4) of the 253 deaths for which questionnaires were returned, and such a decision was actually made in 143 cases (57%; 95% CI: 48.9-64.0). Lethal drugs were administered in 15 of 117 early neonatal deaths and in 2 of 77 later deaths (13% versus 3%; p = 0.018). The attitude study showed that 69 (58%; 95% CI: 48.1-66.5) of the 120 physicians supported a change in the law making life-termination possible in some well-defined cases. CONCLUSION: The death of neonates and infants was commonly preceded by an end-of-life decision in Flanders. The type of decision varied substantially according to the age of the child. The majority of physicians involved, favoured legalization of the use of lethal drugs in some well-defined cases.