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End-of-life decision-making for newborns: a 12-year experience in Hong Kong
  1. Lawrence C N Chan,
  2. Hon M Cheung,
  3. Terence C W Poon,
  4. Terence P Y Ma,
  5. Hugh S Lam,
  6. Pak C Ng
  1. Department of Paediatrics, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  1. Correspondence to Professor Pak C Ng, Department of Paediatrics, 6th Floor, Lui Che Woo Clinical Sciences Building, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong; pakcheungng{at}cuhk.edu.hk

Abstract

Setting Neonatal end-of-life decisions could be influenced by cultural and ethnic backgrounds. These practices have been well described in the West but have not been systematically studied in an Asian population.

Objectives To determine: (1) different modes of neonatal death and changes over the past 12 years and (2) factors influencing end-of-life decision-making in Hong Kong.

Design A retrospective study was conducted to review all death cases from 2002 to 2013 in the busiest neonatal unit in Hong Kong. Modes of death, demographical data, diagnoses, counselling and circumstances around the time of death, were collected and compared between groups.

Results Of the 166 deaths, 46% occurred despite active resuscitation (group 1); 35% resulted from treatment withdrawal (group 2) and 19% occurred from withholding treatment (group 3). A rising trend towards treatment withdrawal was observed, from 20% to 47% over the 12-year period. Similar number of parents chose extubation (n=44, 27%) compared with other modalities of treatment limitation (n=45, 27%). Significantly more parents chose to withdraw rather than to withhold treatment if clinical conditions were ‘stable’ (p=0.03), whereas more parents chose withholding therapy if treatment was considered futile (p=0.03).

Conclusion In Hong Kong, a larger proportion of neonatal deaths occurred despite active resuscitation compared with Western data. Treatment withdrawal is, however, becoming increasingly more common. Unlike Western practice, similar percentages of parents chose other modalities of treatment limitation compared with direct extubation. Cultural variance could be a reason for the different end-of-life practice adopted in Hong Kong.

  • Ethics
  • Palliative Care

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