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Looking after each other when a child dies
  1. Martin Ward Platt
  1. Correspondence to Dr Martin Ward Platt, Neonatal Service, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK; m.p.ward-platt{at}

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The death of a child is obviously and necessarily a very hard thing for parents and siblings. It can also be difficult for the professionals looking after a child, and if the death takes place in hospital it will affect medical, nursing and other staff, both senior and junior. Hollingsworth et al 1 make a case for the notion that some trainee medical staff are deeply affected, and may be psychologically harmed, by such an experience. They rightly highlight that formal debriefing may be part of the problem rather than any solution. I would like to pick up this point and consider what we can collectively do to ameliorate the problem: how we should look after each other.

Child deaths in hospital happen in many ways: for example, the failed resuscitation of a desperately ill or moribund child in the emergency department; death in intensive care after some hours or days of highly invasive treatment; expected and unexpected deaths on paediatric wards; deaths of babies after longer or shorter episodes of neonatal intensive care and many others. The ways in which trainees become involved with the child and the family, before and after the death, are necessarily different in each context. Since these various modes of death affect the attending staff in different ways, there can be no single approach to fit all circumstances.

Following child deaths, multidisciplinary, multiprofessional meetings are central to paediatric practice and …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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