What To Do when a child dies in the ED

AAP Recommendations

This prescient clinical report provides pediatric clinicians with a guide to actively help parents and siblings after the death of a child. The following are among the many practical suggestions:
  • Expect that grief after the loss of a child is intense and long lasting.
  • Acknowledge the family's grief. Parents and other family members often experience more pain when the death of a child is not acknowledged. Grieving parents report that they remember painful feelings associated with a friend, family member, or physician who does not contact them.
  • Find an opportunity to meet with the parents. A telephone call to the parents may be helpful, but a face-to-face visit with the parents is best. A simple statement to parents might be, "I'm so sorry to hear about _____'s death. What a terrible loss for you and your family."
  • Don't attempt to alleviate grief by providing advice; it is usually ineffective and could be detrimental.
  • Help siblings with the grieving process. Siblings are often "forgotten mourners" when parents are dealing with their own grief. A pediatrician who knows the family is in a position to help siblings according to the child's developmental age (see Pediatrics 2000; 105:445).
  • Community-based self-help groups can provide immediate and ongoing support to a family. A useful website for parents is www.bereavedparentsusa.org.
  • Refer parents or siblings experiencing a complicated grief process to a mental health therapist. Complicated grief is often associated with a preexisting psychiatric condition or a troubled relationship with the child before his or her death.
Here is the reference

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