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‘Walking their walk’: reducing conflict between families of ill children and the medical profession


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

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