Booster Shots

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If your child were dying of cancer, would you consider hastening his or her death?

March 1, 2010 |  1:01 pm

Experts estimate that 2% to 10% of adults with terminal illness ask their doctors about medications they could take that would hasten their death. Researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and their colleagues wondered what the equivalent figure was for pediatric cancer patients with only weeks or months left to live.

Grave So the researchers interviewed 141 parents whose own children had died of cancer. The survey found:

  • 13% had considered taking measures to hasten their child’s death
  • 9% actually discussed the possibility of hastening death
  • 4% asked doctors for medications that would end their child's life sooner
  • 2% said they had used morphine to hasten their child’s death

In general, parents were more likely to consider taking action if their child was in a great deal of pain. In fact, 34% of the parents surveyed said they would have considered hastening their own child’s death if he or she were suffering from uncontrollable pain.

The results were published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

— Karen Kaplan

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images