Purpose of review
As we have refined our extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) capabilities and enhanced our ability to care for children with illnesses previously deemed lethal, the patient populations for whom ECMO is a medically appropriate intervention have expanded. Such expansion has prompted consideration of evolving ethical issues. In this review, we highlight several of the emerging ethical issues in pediatric ECMO.
Expansion of ECMO into increasingly diverse pediatric populations has prompted several ethical questions. First, some have found that there are specific clinical settings in which ECMO ought to be obligatory. Second, expanded use of ECMO may prompt disagreements among healthcare providers or between providers and family members regarding decisions about decannulation. Finally, analysis of the ethical challenges associated with integration of other disruptive healthcare modalities into patient care, will allow us insight into how to assure ethical expansion of pediatric ECMO.
Expansion of pediatric ECMO highlights several ethical issues including whether ECMO is ever ethically obligatory, how to ethically decannulate a patient when survival is deemed unlikely, and how to guide expansion of pediatric ECMO based upon lessons learned from the implementation of other disruptive healthcare interventions into practice.