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Japanese physicians’ attitudes toward end-of-life discussion with pediatric patients with cancer

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We explored pediatricians’ practices and attitudes concerning end-of-life discussions (EOLds) with pediatric patients with cancer, and identified the determinants of pediatricians’ positive attitude toward having EOLds with pediatric patients.


A multicenter questionnaire survey was conducted with 127 pediatricians specializing in the treatment of pediatric cancer.


Forty-two percent of participants reported that EOLds should be held with the young group of children (6–9 years old), 68% with the middle group (10–15 years old), and 93% with the old group (16–18 years old). Meanwhile, 6, 20, and 35% of participants answered that they “always” or “usually” discussed the incurability of the disease with the young, middle, and old groups, respectively; for the patient’s imminent death, the rates were 2, 11, and 24%. Pediatricians’ attitude that they “should have” EOLds with the young group was predicted by more clinical experience (odds ratio [OR] 1.077; p = 0.007), more confidence in addressing children’s anxiety after EOLd (OR 1.756; p = 0.050), weaker belief in the demand for EOLd (OR 0.456; p = 0.015), weaker belief in the necessity of the EOLd for children to enjoy their time until death (OR, 0.506; p = 0.021), and weaker belief in the importance of maintaining a good relationship with the parents (OR 0.381; p = 0.025).


While pediatricians nearly reached consensus on EOLds for the old group, EOLds with the young group remain a controversial subject. While pediatricians who supported EOLds believed in their effectiveness or necessity, those who were against EOLds tended to consider the benefits of not engaging in them.

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This study was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 26780408.

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Correspondence to Saran Yoshida.

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Yoshida, S., Ogawa, C., Shimizu, K. et al. Japanese physicians’ attitudes toward end-of-life discussion with pediatric patients with cancer. Support Care Cancer 26, 3861–3871 (2018).

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