Continuing Medical Education

When is the right time? Complex issues around withdrawing life-sustaining treatment in children

Julia Ambler


When should one withdraw treatment in children? The challenge is to recognise when a decision needs to be made. Parents may be in denial, and deciding which questions to ask may be difficult. Ethically, the guiding principle should be the child’s best interests. May the parents or primary caregiver decide what the child’s best interests are? Legislation in South Africa prevents a parent or caregiver from refusing treatment that medical professionals deem to be in the child’s best interests. This article discusses the ethical and legal aspects around the decision to palliate in children.


Author's affiliations

Julia Ambler, Department of Paediatrics, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Umduduzi Hospice Care for Children, Durban, South Africa

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Palliative care; Children

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(7):507-509. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.8427

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-05-07
Date published: 2014-06-12

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