Article Text

Download PDFPDF
‘Walking their walk’: reducing conflict between families of ill children and the medical profession
  1. Nicholas G Gottardo1,2,3
  1. 1 Department of Paediatric and Adolescent Oncology/Haematology, Perth Children’s Hospital, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2 Brain Tumour Research Programme, Telethon Kids Institute, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3 School of Medicine, Pediatrics, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Associate Professor Nicholas G Gottardo, Department of Paediatric and Adolescent Oncology/Haematology, Perth Children's Hospital, Nedlands WA 6009, Australia; nick.gottardo{at}


In recent years, several high-profile court cases generated headlines across the globe. Notably, they brought conflict between families of seriously ill children and the medical profession to the forefront. These conflicts, especially when the courts become involved, are highly destructive to all parties concerned, as the focus inevitably shifts from the child to the conflict itself. Often, at the heart of conflict, is a lack of effective communication between a patient’s family and their health providers. In order to assist health workers in the prevention, recognition and management of conflict in paediatrics, a Conflict Management Framework (CMF) and a set of guidelines endorsed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) have been developed. Here, I review recent high-profile court cases to underscore the changing landscape of conflict and the central role that the media (and social media in particular) can play in fuelling and intensifying conflicts. The CMF and RCPCH-endorsed guidelines are discussed in the context of my own experience utilising some of these, as well as implementing other strategies aimed at reducing conflict in a paediatric oncology and haematology unit.

  • ethics
  • paediatric practice

Statistics from


  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.