Holding the Tension

Authors

  • Chris Feudtner


  • Chris Feudtner directs the Department of Medical Ethics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and teaches in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Abstract

My colleagues and I had been asked by a member of a clinical team to help sort through the ethics of stopping a life-sustaining intervention for a very ill child. We had already talked with the parents, the physicians, and the folks from nursing, social work, and chaplaincy. Terms like “suffering,” “cruel,” “compassion,” and “moral distress” had been uttered, as had terms like “inappropriate,” “unethical,” “neglectful,” and “risk-management.” The group had now stuffed all of these polarizing thoughts and feelings into this cramped room with only one door. And everyone was looking at me. What skill, competency, or inner capacity must one possess to hold and manage such tension?

Ancillary