Palliative Care for Pediatric Patients

Chronic diseases contribute to almost half of all deaths worldwide. The rationale behind the deaths is that an illness may be diagnosed at a late stage which makes health practitioners unable to cure the patients. As a result, nurses and doctors remain with the option of providing palliative care to ease pain and ensure pediatric patients spend their last moments happy. Although nursing practitioners play a pivotal role in the provision of palliative care, family members are encouraged to work together with healthcare providers to ensure pediatric patients access quality healthcare services. Provision of quality healthcare enables patients to handle stress as well as pain (Blinderman & Billings, 2015). Peer-reviewed articles assert that principles of Catholic Social Teaching about Human Dignity and the Preference for the Poor and Vulnerable Populations because it is an ethical requirement for healthcare providers.

According to Weaver et al. (2015), cancer suffices to be one of the chronic ailments negatively affecting pediatric patients and contributing to their demise. The authors state that it is crucial for children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer to receive family-centered palliative care to manage pain, minimize suffering, anxiety, and symptom burden. Family-centered care enhances shared decision-making and effective communication between close relatives of a cancer patient and healthcare providers. Palliative care of cancer patients improves their overall well-being as well as their psychosocial behavior despite the stage of cancer. Palliative care could also involve bereavement care after a pediatric patient dies to ease the mourning period for the family members. As such, it is evident that palliative care for cancer patients is one of the essential health development interventions for cancer patients.

Principles of Catholic Social Teaching such as human dignity suggest that everyone was created in the image of God. As such, the life and dignity of every individual in society should be supported and respected since conception till death. Weaver et al. (2015) follows the principle of human dignity by stating that it is crucial for healthcare providers to utilize a family-centered approach during the provision of palliative care. Although a person is diagnosed with a chronic disease such as cancer, they remain God’s creation which requires everyone to support and respect their lives. Authors of the article are keen to state that taking care of children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer is the responsibility of health practitioners and family members. Therefore, it is evident that the article adheres to the guidelines of Catholic social teachings.

Cancer patients also fall under the category of the poor and vulnerable populations in society. The principles of Catholic social teaching require that the needs of the poor and vulnerable should be prioritized. Provision of palliative care to cancer patients suffices to be an adherence to the principle of Catholic social teachings. Family-centered palliative care means that family members and physicians prioritize the needs of pediatric patients to ensure that there is minimal pain and suffering. Coordination during the provision of healthcare services significantly improves the quality of care given to patients to ensure they remain happy and stress-free during their last moments in life. Therefore, Weaver et al. (2015) address the issue of cancer illness in the perspective of patients being poor and vulnerable meaning that their needs should be prioritized.

The article by Kassam et al. (2016) asserts that children diagnosed with cancer often receive enhanced end-of-life medical treatment. Authors of the article analyzed data collected from 2000 until 2012 in Ontario, Canada. The data analysis affirmed cancer children mostly died after high-intensity medical care or rather, a series of treatments in the intensive care unit and mechanical ventilation. Over time, there has been an increase in palliative care for cancer children to minimize pain, symptoms, and suffering as a result of cancer. The article mostly studies the population trends whereby the authors that state most-invasive (MI) end-of-life healthcare have been on the increase as much as palliative care is increasing in Ontario. Therefore, the provision of quality healthcare to children diagnosed with cancer in Ontario has been on an increase to minimize instances of suffering and ensure there is a provision of quality healthcare services.

The principle of Catholic social teachings about putting the needs of the poor and vulnerable first is evident in the article. Since the beginning of 2004, there has been an increase in the provision of palliative care services to children diagnosed with cancer (Kassam et al., 2016). Subsequently, medical-invasive end-of-life care services have been on the increase in Ontario, Canada meaning that the nation is focused on improving the quality of care to cancer patients. Patients with chronic diseases require the same treatment as the vulnerable and the poor in society. The concern for the overall well-being of children diagnosed with cancer suffices to be high even though such diseases are chronic. Therefore, palliative care for chronically-ill patients is a religious requirement and an ethical issue in nursing intended to improve the quality of care during end-of-life moments.

Human dignity is evident in the research article because the authors state that physicians and family members have worked together with family members of the sick to provide high-intensity end-of-life care. As such, family-centered care facilitates support and respect for pediatric patients diagnosed with cancer (Kassam et al., 2016). The inclusion of medical-invasive and palliative care proves that doctors and nurses are concerned with lengthening the life of a patient rather than neglecting a patient just because a person has a chronic illness. The health interventions significantly enhance the quality of life relieving sick patients of stress and disproportionate pain. As such, an analysis of studies based on a particular set of population proves that Ontario is concerned with the improvement of the end-of-life quality of care for patients diagnosed with cancer.

Levine et al. (2016) carry out a retrospective review of research articles to understand how the integration of palliative care improves the quality of life of patients. The study was carried out in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where researchers analyzed records of patients who visited the health facility between 2007 and 2014. The results of the analysis of the data prove that the integration of palliative care to cancer patients significantly intensified the need for integration of the services in the treatment of chronically-ill patients. In St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the integration of palliative care contributed to referrals and a sudden surge in need for the services by the community members. Consequently, the healthcare facility has opened an out-patient for the clients. Therefore, integration of palliative care appears to appeal to many people in society which raises the demand for the services.

According to Catholic social teachings, there should be a preferential option for the poor and the vulnerable. According to Levine et al. (2016), the healthcare facility’s policies prioritize the preferential treatment of patients to facilitate improve the satisfaction of patients. It is evident that since the integration of palliative care, there has been a surge in demand which has made St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to improve healthcare provision to the patients diagnosed with cancer. The article shows that the participant population has been focusing on the integration of comprehensive end-of-life care to patients. The out-patient center facilitates long term follow-up of patients diagnosed with cancer to ensure that they do not suffer a lot during their end-of-life moments. As such, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital follows the principles of Catholic social teachings.

Levine et al. (2016) state that the integration of palliative care services was to ensure that treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital portrays human dignity. Human dignity is upheld in the article whereby physicians emphasize on providing quality and the best care to patients diagnosed with cancer. Principles of Catholic social teaching affirm that the provision of quality care is fundamental in an individual. The article asserts that the first approach to improving life expectancy is providing healthcare rather than neglecting the patients who are in dire need of treatment services. Physicians at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital strive to ensure that they uphold human dignity and ensure everyone is supported and respected. Therefore, the integration of palliative care services is an essential aspect that enables people to uphold dignity in their interactions.

Blinderman and Billing (2015) discuss the issue of hospitalized patients and the need for palliative care. The authors state that patients last moments can be distressing which requires the implementation of effective interventions to ensure that patients whose death is imminent avoid the distressing symptoms such as heart failure. Comfort care refers to palliative care interventions that can provide relief in an individual diagnosed with a chronic disease. The article points out that nursing homes and hospitals remain the primary destinations where cancer patients receive end-of-life care which means that it is essential to improve the provision of healthcare services. At this moment, it is crucial for physicians to uphold the principles of Catholic social teachings about human dignity and care for the poor and vulnerable.

The article follows the principle of human dignity by reiterating that the providers of end-of-life care should be specialists. Doctors may allocate trainees or unqualified personnel to care for patients with chronic diseases which suffices to be unethical and disrespects human dignity. Specialists usually understand the effective palliative care interventions to use to rid patients of distressing symptoms. Blinderman and Billing (2015) assert that specialists should respect and support human dignity through the provision of comfort care. Provision of comfort care contributes to the improvement of social well-being by enhancing respect and support for human dignity. Administration of appropriate can sometimes lengthen life and relief chronically-ill patients the distressing symptoms. Therefore, the provision of healthcare services by qualified specialists adheres to the principle of human dignity.

Comfort care is crucial to alleviate stress in cancer patients. The article states that skilled clinicians should provide appropriate healthcare services to dying patients. Communication is also vital to ensure that patients understand the treatment procedures utilized by a specialist. A pediatrician should disseminate information to relatives as well as the patient to ensure that the family members can provide palliative care even when a patient is at home (Blinderman & Billing, 2015). As such, physicians and caregivers should prioritize the needs of dying patients. Specialists attending to patients whose death is imminent suffices to be an example of preferential treatment or prioritization of their needs. Dying patients are vulnerable to stress and pain which is the rationale for the provision of specialized care. Therefore, the article addresses the principle of the poor and vulnerable in society as per the Catholic social teachings.

The research article by Henderson, FitzGerald, Hoehn, and Weidner (2017) discusses the provision of palliative sedation during severe cases of illness to minimize distress during end-of-life care. Although there are no guidelines about the use of palliative sedation, the treatment intervention significantly reduces intractable terminal pain in an individual. The authors state that pediatricians are usually confused when it comes to the application of palliative sedation due to its ambiguity. However, the application of palliative sedation is mostly executed based on institutional guidelines with appropriate communication between a pediatrician and a patient. Chronic diseases contribute to terminal pain which may require catheters for the administration of sedative drugs. As such, the application of palliative sedation suffices to be the most effective intervention that can address terminal pain during end-of-life care.

Palliative sedation is a means of upholding the principle for human dignity. It is unethical for pediatricians to let patients continue to suffer due to terminal pain when there is a treatment intervention that can address the health issue (Henderson et al., 2017). Showing support and respect for human dignity should involve preventing deaths caused by pain. Therefore, minimizing terminal pain should be carried out as per an institution’s guidelines to ensure that death is natural and not due to pain that could be prevented. On the other hand, the prioritization of the needs of the poor and vulnerable leads to the utilization of palliative sedation to ensure there is minimal terminal suffering. Understanding the pain of a patient can enable a pediatrician to consider palliative sedation over other treatment interventions to alleviate terminal pain.

Catholic social teachings outline the principles about how people should treat each other people in society. In the medical profession, the provision of care to patients whose death is imminent requires an ethical approach. In this case, minimizing pain and other distressing symptoms should be a priority for every pediatrician treating a cancer patient. Various palliative care interventions can be used to improve the health of an individual. Palliative sedation assists in minimizing terminal pain to ensure a patient does not succumb to death due to pain and negligence to provide quality end-of-life care. Effective communication is also essential to ensure that a patient, as well as the family members, understand the palliative care interventions that a pediatrician utilizes. A critical analysis of the various peer-reviewed articles asserts the principles for supporting and respecting human dignity and care for the poor and vulnerable are addressed concisely.



Blinderman, C. D., & Billings, J. A. (2015). Comfort care for patients dying in the hospital. New England Journal of Medicine, 373(26), 2549-2561. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1411746.

Henderson, C. M., FitzGerald, M., Hoehn, K. S., & Weidner, N. (2017). Pediatrician ambiguity in understanding palliative sedation at the end of life. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine®, 34(1), 5-19. doi: 10.1177/1049909115609294.

Kassam, A., Sutradhar, R., Widger, K., Rapoport, A., Pole, J. D., Nelson, K., … & Gupta, S. (2016). Predictors of and trends in high-intensity end-of-life care among children with cancer: a population-based study using health services data. Journal of clinical oncology, 35(2), 236-242. DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2016.68.8283.

Levine, D. R., Johnson, L. M., Snyder, A., Wiser, R. K., Gibson, D., Kane, J. R., & Baker, J. N. (2016). Integrating palliative care in pediatric oncology: Evidence for an evolving paradigm for comprehensive cancer care. Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, 14(6), 741-748. Retrieved from

Weaver, M. S., Heinze, K. E., Kelly, K. P., Wiener, L., Casey, R. L., Bell, C. J., … & Hinds, P. S. (2015). Palliative care as a standard of care in pediatric oncology. Pediatric blood & cancer, 62(S5), S829-S833. DOI:10.1002/pbc.25695.

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