Bioethics Blogs

Family Presence During Resuscitation: Extending Ethical Norms from Pediatrics to Adults

Guest Post: Christine Vincent and Zohar Lederman

Paper: Family presence during resuscitation: extending ethical norms from paediatrics to adults

Family Presence During Resuscitation is an important ethical issue for discussion within the medical community. Currently, family presence is more commonly accepted in paediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) than adult CPR. However, we argue that this fact is not morally justified and that the case for family presence during adult CPR is indeed morally stronger. In our paper we provide an ethical argument for accepting both family presence during adult CPR and pediatric CPR.

Arguments commonly used by ethicists and medical professionals to justify family presence during resuscitation (FPDR) in the emergency room revolve around scarce evidence of harm to patient outcome, strong evidence demonstrating benefits to relatives, and respect for patient’s wishes. However, we argue that these three main reasons all seem to be stronger in the case of adult patients than pediatric ones.

Evidence demonstrating no negative effects of FPDR on patient outcome has mainly been found for adult patients. Furthermore, research showing benefits to relatives from being present is much stronger for adult patients as well. Lastly, the wishes and rights of adults are commonly much more respected compared to those of children, both in healthcare and generally. There is no reason why this should not extend to FPDR as well, given that the majority of patients prefer to go through traumatic life events surrounded by friends and family.

In our conclusion, we mention how family presence during any patient’s resuscitation is a huge step from where society was decades ago.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.