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Child health
When a parent is dying: how we can do more to support families and children with a dying parent
  1. Cristina Pinto1,2,
  2. Sara Pinto3,4
  1. 1Centro Hospitalar de Entre o Douro e Vouga EPE, Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal
  2. 2Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal
  3. 3Escola Superior de Saúde de Santa Maria, Porto, Portugal
  4. 4Center for Health Technology and Services Research (CINTESIS) – NursID, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Dr Cristina Pinto, Palliative Care Unit, Centro Hospitalar de Entre o Douro e Vouga EPE, Santa Maria da Feira 4520-211, Portugal; cristinateixeirapinto{at}

Statistics from

Commentary on: Hanna JR, McCaughan E, Semple CJ. Challenges and support needs of parents and children when a parent is at end of life: a systematic review. PalliatMed 2019;338:1017–1044. doi: 10.1177/0269216319857622.

Implications for practice and research

  • When a parent is dying, an honest discussion should be made with the children to prepare them for an imminent bereavement. Community awareness is important for better support networks for grieving families.

  • Further research is needed to explore ways of supporting dying parents to have conversations with children of different ages, family settings and cultural backgrounds.


Dying parents of dependent children are faced with accepting their own impending death as well as supporting their children to understand what is happening and prepare them for when death occurs. Such a challenge needs support from healthcare professionals to facilitate a positive approach that prepares the children for loss as well as for a …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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