A “Good Death” for Children with Cardiac Disease

Academic Article


  • Children with heart disease often experience symptoms and medically intense end-of-life care. Our study explored bereaved parents’ perceptions of a “good death” via a mail survey to 128 parents of children with heart disease who died in two centers. Parental perceptions of end-of-life circumstances were assessed by closed-ended questions including level of agreement with the question: “would you say your child experienced a good death?” and open-ended comments were contributed. Medical therapies at end-of-life and mode of death were retrieved through chart review. Of 50 responding parents, 44 (response rate: 34%) responded to the “good death” question; 16 (36%) agreed strongly, 15 (34%) agreed somewhat, and 30% disagreed (somewhat: 7, 16%; strongly: 6, 14%). Half the children were on mechanical support and 84% intubated at death. Of children with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at end-of-life, 71% of parents disagreed with the “good death” question compared with 22% of parents whose child died following discontinuation of life-sustaining therapy or comfort measures (OR 9.1, 95% CI 1.3, 48.9, p < 0.01). Parent-reported circumstances associated with disagreement with the “good death” question included cure-oriented goals-of-care (OR 16.6, 95% CI 3.0, 87.8, p < 0.001), lack of advance care planning (ACP) (OR 12.4 95% CI 2.1, 65.3 p < 0.002), surprise regarding timing of death (OR 11.7, 95% CI 2.6, 53.4 p < 0.002), and experience of pain (OR 42.1, 95% CI 2.3, 773.7 p < 0.02). Despite high medical intensity, many bereaved parents of children with cardiac disease agree a “good death” was experienced. A “good death” was associated with greater preparedness, ACP, non-cure-oriented goals-of-care, pain control, and CPR avoidance.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Moynihan KM; Ziniel SI; Johnston E; Morell E; Pituch K; Blume ED
  • Start Page

  • 744
  • End Page

  • 755
  • Volume

  • 43
  • Issue

  • 4