Emergency Medicine Book


  • Notifying Family of Child's Death


Notifying Family of Child's Death

Aka: Notifying Family of Child's Death, Notifying Family of Patient's Death, Breaking Bad News to Parents of Deceased Child, Supporting Family After Death of Child, Support After Family Member Death, Counseling Family After Child's Death, Counseling After Loved One's Death
  1. Epidemiology
    1. Incidence (U.S.): 40,000 childhood deaths per year
  2. Approach: General
    1. State it simply, succinctly and in plain language
      1. Example: "We could not save <name> and they have died. I am very sorry."
      2. Example: "<name> was dead on arrival to the Emergency Department. I am very sorry"
    2. Avoid additional commentary beyond above
    3. Focus on answering family's questions truthfully
      1. Match the response to the level of detail that is asked
      2. Do not avoid contact with the family
    4. Allow for memory items (hand or foot mold, lock of hair, or jewelry) if it will not interfere with any planned post-mortem evaluation (e.g. coroner)
    5. Allow family to be present at Resuscitation if they wish
      1. Typically hospital staff member is assigned to accompany them and answer questions they have during the Resuscitation
    6. Do not give advice
      1. Do not use phrases of "being in better place, or no longer suffering" (family may say this, but providers should refrain from this)
      2. Brochures on support services may be given, but avoid extensive counseling on this initially as parent's will not retain this
  3. Resources
    1. Compassionate Friends
      1. http://www.compassionatefriends.org/
    2. Bereaved Parents USA
      1. http://www.bereavedparentsusa.org/
  4. References
    1. Majoewsky (2013) EM:Rap 13(5):3-4
    2. Wender (2012) Pediatrics 130(6): 1164-9 [PubMed]

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