PURPOSE Parents of children with incurable cancer make complex and difficult decisions about remaining treatment options. We compared the self-reported rationale, good parent definition, and desired clinical staff behaviors of parents who recently decided for phase I (P1) chemotherapy with parents who chose a do not resuscitate (DNR) or terminal care (TC) option. PATIENTS AND METHODS Sixty-two parents of 58 children were asked for the basis of their decision, their definition of a good parent, and what staff behaviors supported their good parent role. After semantic content analysis, results were compared in the P1 versus DNR/TC groups. These categories were mutually exclusive but did not necessarily represent an either/or decision. Results Thirty-one decisions were for P1 chemotherapy and 27 for DNR/TC. Median survival time after study enrollment was greater in the P1 group (0.4 v 0.1 years). Most P1 group parents reported having felt compelled to continue cancer-directed therapy (71% v 7%), whereas those who opted for DNR/TC cited quality of life (QOL; 74% v 3%) and patient wishes (67% v 13%). Decision factors common to both groups were medical facts, doing right, and others' opinions. Both groups believed that a good parent did right, provided support and presence, and sacrificed for the child. The groups desired similar support from clinicians and expressed gratitude. CONCLUSION Despite similar definitions of a good parent and desired staff behaviors, parents in the P1 group reported having felt compelled to continue cancer-directed therapy, whereas QOL and patient wishes were emphasized in decisions for DNR/TC.
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