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Art of accepting the ‘least bad’ death
  1. Trisha M Prentice
  1. Neonatal Medicine, The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Trisha M Prentice, The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia; trisha.prentice{at}

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That which constitutes a ‘good death’, or dying well, has long been of interest to philosophers and clinicians alike. While difficult to define due to its deeply personal nature and dependency on spiritual and cultural beliefs and past experiences, Wilkinson1 has drawn parallels from art and music to consider key ethical components. Few in clinical practice would dispute that a ‘good death’ is (at a minimum) one that does not rob the person of a valuable life, is aligned with the preferences of the patient and/or their family, where comfort and solace is provided, distress to family and caregivers is minimised or even (his extended argument) that dying is not prolonged.

However, what is more contentious is how tensions within the principles of a ‘good death’ should be managed or prioritised. In the context of caring for critically ill babies and children, the tension often takes the form of prolonging the dying process through providing life-sustaining interventions to meet the needs of, and to lessen the longer term distress of, the bereaved family, who must live with the decisions that are made. Though often justifiable, such interventions may result in considerable moral distress within caregivers—particularly, as often the case, when interventions are perceived by some clinicians to be of greater benefit to the family than the patient. Some clinicians may have difficulty …

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  • Contributors TP conceptualised the commentary and drafted the manuscript.

  • 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.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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