The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has called on the Government and NHS leaders to do more to foster good, collaborative relationships between parents of critically-ill children and healthcare staff.
Recent high-profile court cases in the UK have highlighted the effects of disagreements between parents and clinical staff in relation to the management of seriously ill children. In a new briefing document, the Council sets out a number of actions for healthcare policy-makers which, it says, could help to prevent prolonged and damaging disagreements developing in future, or resolve them more quickly.
The report proposes that training in ethics, communication and conflict management for paediatric healthcare staff should be more widely available, or even compulsory. It also calls for more timely access to resolution interventions.
Furthermore, it recommends exploring ways in which those parents who want to can be more involved in discussions and decisions, including having access to the child's medical records.
Staff must also be protected from abuse and intimidation, the report states.
Professor Ann Gallagher, a member of the Council and Professor of Ethics and Care at the University of Surrey said: "Although there is a lot of good practice already out there, we think more could be done at a national level to support good, collaborative relationships between families and healthcare staff leading to shared decision-making. We want to prompt policy makers and NHS leaders to think carefully about how the damaging and protracted disagreements that we have seen in recent years can be avoided in future."