?We Absolutely Had the Impression That It Was Our Decision??A Qualitative Study with Parents of Critically Ill Infants Who Participated in End-of-Life Decision Making

Maria Florentine Beyer, Katja Kuehlmeyer, Pezi Mang, Andreas W. Flemmer, Monika F?hrer, Georg Marckmann, Mirjam de Vos, Esther Sabine Schouten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Guidelines recommend shared decision making (SDM) between neonatologists and parents when a decision has to be made about the continuation of life-sustaining treatment (LST). In a previous study, we found that neonatologists and parents at a German Level-III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit performed SDM to a variable but overall small extent. However, we do not know whether parents in Germany prefer an extent of more or sharing. Methods: We performed a qualitative interview study with parents who participated in our first study. We analyzed the semi-structured interviews with qualitative content analysis according to Kuckartz. Results: The participation in medical decision making (MDM) varied across cases. Overall, neonatologists and parents conducted SDM in most cases only to a small extent. All parents appreciated their experience independent of how much they were involved in MDM. The parents who experienced a small extent of sharing were glad that they were protected by neonatologists from having to decide, shielding them from a conflict of interest. The parents who experienced a large extent of sharing especially valued that they were able to fulfil their parental duties even if that meant partaking in a decision to forgo LST. Discussion: Other studies have also found a variety of possibilities for parents to partake in end-of-life decision making (EOL-DM). Our results suggest that parents do not have a uniform preference for one specific decision-making approach, but rather different parents appreciate their individual experience regardless of the model for DM. Conclusion: SDM is apparently not a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, neonatologists and parents have to adapt the decision-making process to the parents? individual needs and preferences for autonomy and protection. Therefore, SDM should not be prescribed as a uniform standard in medico-ethical guidelines, but rather as a flexible guidance for DM for critically ill patients in neonatology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number46
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • parental involvement
  • prematurity
  • shared decision making (MeSH)
  • withdrawing treatment
  • withholding treatment (MeSH)

Cite this