Handbook for Mortals : The dying of children : Sudden causes of childhood death

Yesterday your child was normal, healthy, facing a normal future. Suddenly, he is overwhelmingly ill as a result of a car accident, drowning, blood infection, or other problem. Children can pull through often enough that doctors, and parents, hold out hope for a long time. However, you may be faced with the realization that your child is not likely to recover. Now you have to make some decisions about how the very end will be lived. Use what you know about your child to guide you. What did he like to do? What made him happy? What can your family tolerate?

If the child will not be surviving, most people want to try to have a family-centered death. Your entire family should be able to visit at the same time, though perhaps again that will require moving from ICU (intensive care unit).

One child, a 14-year-old Pakistani boy, had drowned and was being kept alive until family could gather. His family and community came to honor him and provide a peaceful death, forming a circle around his bed and chanting. Then they drew closer to him (all 35 people in the room, of all ages), crying. When the breathing tube was removed, they poured holy water in his mouth and continued their chants. When he took his last breath 27 minutes later, the whole room looked out the same window and a peaceful hush fell over the crowd.

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Closely related:

Dying Suddenly
Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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