Perceptions of inadequate health care and feelings of guilt in parents after the death of a child to a malignancy: A population-based long-term follow-up

Pamela J. Surkan, Ulrika Kreicbergs, Unnur Valdimarsdóttir, Ullakarin Nyberg, Erik Onelöv, Paul W. Dickman, Gunnar Steineck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Parental feelings of guilt can be a serious problem after the death of a child to a malignancy. This study identified predictors of feelings of guilt in parents during the year after a child's death. Methods: The Swedish Cause of Death Register and Swedish Cancer Register were used to identify all parents in Sweden who had a child who died of a malignancy between 1992-1997. Results: Among parents not reporting recent depression, those who were not confident that their child would immediately receive help from the staff in the hospital while he or she was sick with a malignancy (compared to those who felt partly or entirely sure, relative risk [RR] 4.0; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.1-7.6), were at increased risk for reporting daily or weekly feelings of guilt in the year after the child's death. Parents who perceived that the staff in the pediatric cancer ward were incompetent were at increased risk (compared to parents reporting partial or total competence, RR 3.7; 95% CI 1.6-8.6). Compared to parents reporting that their children had moderate or much access, those who felt their children had little or no access to pain relief, dietary advice, anxiety relief, and relief of other psychological symptoms beside anxiety were at more than two times greater risk for reporting feelings of guilt. Conclusions: Bereaved parents' perceptions of inadequate health care were associated with subsequent feelings of guilt during the year following their child's death due to a malignancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-331
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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