In the child’s best interests: should life be sustained when further treatment is futile?

Emma Marland, Barbara Davies*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this article is to explore the concept of medical futility and the withdrawal of care for children in intensive care units. There have been several recent cases where medical staff have considered that there was no possibility of recovery for a child, yet their clinical judgments were challenged by the parents. The private anguish of these families became public, social media heightened emotions and this was followed by political and religious intrusion. Innovations in medical treatment and technological advances raise issues for all those involved in the care of children and young people especially when decisions need to be made about end of life care. Healthcare professionals have a moral and legal obligation to determine when treatment should cease in cases where it is determined to be futile. The aim should be to work collaboratively with parents but all decisions must be made in the best interests of the child. However, medical staff and parents may have differing opinions about care decisions. In part, this may be as a result of their unique relationships with the child and different understanding of the extent to which the child is in discomfort or can endure pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-27
Number of pages5
JournalNursing children and young people
Issue number6
Early online date22 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019


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