Article | Pediatrics

Effects of Description of Options on Parental Perinatal Decision-Making

by Marlyse F. Haward, Leslie K. John, John M. Lorenz and Baruch Fischhoff


Objective: To examine whether parents' delivery room management decisions for extremely preterm infants are influenced by (a) the degree of detail with which options-comfort care (CC) or intensive care (IC)-are presented or (b) their order of presentation. Methods: 309 volunteers, 18-55 years old, were each randomized to one of 4 groups: 1. detailed descriptions, CC presented first; 2. detailed descriptions, IC presented first; 3. brief descriptions, CC presented first; and 4. brief descriptions, IC presented first. Each received the description of a hypothetical delivery of a 23-week gestation infant and chose either IC or CC. Open-ended and structured questions elicited reasoning. Data were analyzed by chi-square and logistic regression analysis. Results: Neither degree of detail, comparing groups 1+2 with 3+4 (37% v 41%, OR=0.85, 95%CI=0.54-1.34, p=0.48), nor order, comparing groups 1+3 with 2+4 (40% v 37 %, OR=0.88, 95%CI=0.56-1.39; p=0.59), influenced the likelihood of choosing IC. Participants choosing IC were more likely to invoke sanctity of life and religiosity as personal values. Additional reasons for choosing IC were experiences with infants born at later gestational ages, giving the baby a chance, not watching their baby die, and equating CC with euthanasia. Some choosing CC wanted to avoid infant suffering. Conclusions: The degree of detail and order of presentation had no effect on treatment decisions, suggesting that individuals bring well-articulated preexisting preferences to such decisions. Understanding beliefs and attitudes motivating these preferences can assist physicians in helping parents make informed decisions consistent with their values.

Keywords: Decision Making; Values and Beliefs; Personal Characteristics; Attitudes; Motivation and Incentives; Family and Family Relationships; Health Care and Treatment;


Haward, Marlyse F., Leslie K. John, John M. Lorenz, and Baruch Fischhoff. "Effects of Description of Options on Parental Perinatal Decision-Making." Pediatrics 129, no. 5 (May 2012): 891–902.