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Book Reviews and Other Media
October 2003

When Children Die: Improving Palliative and End-of-Life Care for Children and Their Families

Author Affiliations


edited by Marilyn J. Field and Richard E. Behrman, 712 pp, $35.96, ISBN 0-309-08437-7, Washington, DC, National Academies Press, 2003.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(10):1035. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.10.1035-a

Grief fills the room up of my absent child, Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me, Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, Remembers me of all his gracious parts.—William Shakespeare

No one can tell another's grief. If the death of a favorite aunt is a sad but expected event for one middle-aged man, it may be a devastating, life-changing event for his twin brother. Still, most people would likely agree that the death of a child carries with it a special sadness, for the parents, who expected their child to survive them, of course, but also for the community at large. Children deserve to grow up and take their pull at the brass ring, but to do that they must be protected for a season. The death of a child, then, represents an implicit failure of the adult world, a broken promise to the next generation that never had to be made because it was self-evident, in the nature of things. That a child's death is more shocking today than it was a few generations ago when diseases such as influenza and consumption killed children in great numbers does not negate the continuity between parents who mourned them in the past and those who mourn them now, as the quotation from Shakespeare demonstrates.