Pediatric palliative care

What is pediatric palliative care?

Pediatric palliative care, or palliative care for children, is available to children with a serious or long-term (chronic) illness. The goal of pediatric palliative care is to improve the quality of life for children and their families.

A father and son talk to a doctor


How is pediatric palliative care different than adult palliative care?

Having a serious or chronic illness can be especially challenging for children. While it’s not unusual for adults to become ill, especially towards the end of life, being ill is never “normal” for a child. That’s why it’s important to not only address the physical symptoms of a child’s illness, but also the many emotions that may come with it, such as sadness, anger, or anxiety.

Here are the ways pediatric palliative care can help children with a chronic illness:

  • Pediatric palliative care looks at a child’s development from all angles instead of just focusing on symptoms. The goal is to allow the child to grow and develop despite having a serious illness.
  • It can ease the physical symptoms of an illness or side effects of a treatment, such as pain, shortness of breath, or nausea (feeling sick in the stomach).
  • The care team can give emotional support to the entire family, for example by offering counseling.
  • Since children with a serious or chronic illness often see more than one doctor, the care team can help coordinate different treatments and providers. They may also try to lower costs or recommend helpful care services.

Who can start pediatric palliative care?

Any child with a serious or chronic illness can start pediatric palliative care. Chronic illnesses are illnesses that cannot easily be cured, with symptoms that last for a long time. Children get pediatric palliative care for illnesses such as cancer, genetic (inherited) disorders, neurological (brain and nerve) disorders, or heart and lung conditions.