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June 2004

Parental Grief and Palliative Care Require Attention

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(6):590-591. doi:10.1001/archpedi.158.6.590

The care of dying children and their families challenges many areas of personal and professional competence of pediatricians. While the majority of children in the United States die in hospitals under the care of specialists, pediatricians are likely to remain closely connected to the parents, to care for any siblings, and to provide a critical bridge to family decision making and continuity of care. For parents, the death of a child is devastating, often shattering their perception of the natural order of life and death and redirecting the course of shared development.1,2 The article by Seecharan et al3 in the current issue of the ARCHIVES is important more because of the questions it raises than for the answers it provides concerning the experiences of these parents. Our editorial will build on this article in 3 ways. First, we will highlight the importance of the problem by briefly reviewing the evidence concerning the long-term effect of the loss on parents. Second, we will discuss methodological issues in studying the experiences of these parents. Third, we will highlight important issues currently facing the field of palliative care for children and families and point to critical directions for future work.

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