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Nationwide Study of Continuous Deep Sedation Practices Among Pediatric Palliative Care Teams

      Abstract

      Context

      Palliative sedation practices evolved in France when the Claeys-Leonetti law passed in 2016 authorized patient-requested continuous deep sedation (CDS) until death. Its implementation in the pediatric setting is less frequently encountered and can pose several clinical and ethical challenges for health care teams and families.

      Objectives

      Our study aimed to describe CDS requests and practices of patients receiving specialized pediatric palliative care in France since its legalization in 2016.

      Methods

      We conducted a nationwide multicentric, descriptive, retrospective study using a self-report questionnaire completed by all Pediatric Palliative Care (PPC) Teams that were involved in a CDS case between January 2017 and December 2019.

      Results

      Six PPC teams had cared for six patients that had requested CDS, predominantly male adolescents/young adults diagnosed with a solid tumour. The refractory symptoms were diverse (pain, bleeding, and sensory loss) and always coupled with psycho-existential suffering. Each request was analyzed in multidisciplinary collegial meetings. Parental consent was always obtained regardless of age. Sedation typically required the use of multiple drugs including Midazolam (n = 5 cases), Chlorpromazine (n = 3), Ketamine (n = 2), and Propofol (n = 2). Despite close monitoring, achieving a satisfactory level of deep sedation was challenging and most patients unexpectedly awoke during CDS. Death occurred between 27 and 96 hours after induction.

      Conclusion

      Managing patient-requested CDS in pediatrics is challenging due to its rarity, multi-factorial refractory symptoms and drug tolerance despite polytherapy. Few recommendations exist to guide CDS practice for pediatricians. Further studies investigating pediatric CDS practices across various cultural and legal settings, refractory symptom management and specific pharmacology are warranted.

      Key Words

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