Introduction: Including children in medical conversations is considered the standard of care for children with cancer. However, previous qualitative research has raised concerns about how the child’s presence impacts the parent’s communication experience. The current study examines the frequency and impact of child presence during a serious medical conversation on the parent’s communication experience in pediatric oncology. Methods: Three hundred sixty parents of children newly diagnosed with cancer completed questionnaires assessing the child’s presence during the initial conversation with the oncologist about diagnosis and treatment and parental communication experiences. Primary oncologists completed a survey question about the child’s prognosis. Results: Sixty-one percent of children were present during the initial conversation, with lowest rates among children aged 3–6 (44%) and 7–12 (44%). Child presence was not associated with parents’ reports that they received prognostic information (p = 0.20), high-quality information (p = 0.19), or high-quality communication about the child’s cancer (p = 1.0). Discussion: The parent’s communication experience is not diminished by the choice to include the child. Given the bioethical imperative to include children in conversations about serious illness whenever possible, this concern should not be used to exclude children, but rather to give parents additional time of their own when needed to fully process decisions.
- Pediatric hematology/oncology
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