Just because we can, should we? The TechChild story so far…

Maria Brenner, Professor in Children’s Nursing, Mary Quirke, Research Fellow, Denise Alexander, Research Fellow, and Josephine Greene, Research Assistant, the School of Nursing & Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Ireland. Here, the authors explain how TechChild offers a new way of thinking about life-sustaining technology, and welcome clinical professionals working with children to take part in their survey.

Clockwise from the top: Maria Brennan, Mary Quirke, Josephine Greene and Denise Alexander

The number of children needing continuous access to technological devices is on the rise. Technological advancements in critical care have also led to increasingly complex clinical, bioethical and legal concerns, with clinicians sometimes left asking Just because we can, should we?

TechChild, a five-year programme of research funded by the European Research Council, aims to provide a new way of thinking about the factors that influence the initiation of life-sustaining technology. It examines the influences on the initiation of technology dependence, taking long-term ventilation (LTV) as an example, in the context of contrasting health, legal and socio-political systems.

Early TechChild publications have focused on: analysing and understanding current concepts;1 arguments in the literature around the initiation of technology dependence;2 and on evolving changes to approaches to the initiation of life-sustaining technology in children.3 This work was critical to the development of interview questions for Phase 2 of the project, which commenced in 2020. Plans for face-to-face interviews and observations with physicians, nurses and members of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) across international sites were thwarted by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, we addressed this challenge successfully. New approaches to data collection were developed through discussions and agreements with hospital sites, ethics and data protection officers. Interview times were then reorganised and conducted virtually. This all happened despite the immense clinical pressure our participants were under.

Calling all international clinical professionals working with children on long-term ventilation – please complete our survey

Collectively, the literature and analysis of Phase 2 interviews suggest several factors that may influence the initiation of invasive LTV. We have now developed and validated an anonymous factorial survey to examine the influences of these factors and we are seeking your views!

If you are a clinical professional (e.g. medical doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, dietician, pharmacist, respiratory therapist, or other member of the MDT) with experience of working with children who have commenced LTV, we would like you to participate.

Please reply as an individual (i.e. not at an institutional level). Participation is voluntary and if you choose to take part your answers will be completely anonymous and confidential. Your views on this topic would be very helpful, and by responding you will increase the accuracy of the survey results. Completion of the questionnaire should take approximately 10-15 minutes.

If you click on the link or scan the QR code below, you will be brought to the survey which will include an introduction, downloadable participation information leaflet and consent form followed by the survey. https://nursingandmidwifery.fra1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4M9P0vCkqqeUkXs

We really appreciate your interest in this study and if you have any questions please contact Prof Maria Brenner (principal investigator) at brennerm@tcd.ie or Dr Mary Quirke at quirkemb@tcd.ie We would also be very grateful if you could forward this link to colleagues who might also be interested in taking part. The deadline for completion of the survey is 7 January 2022.

Acknowledgement: This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 803051). 


  1. Brenner, M., Alexander, D., Quirke, M. B., Eustace-Cook, J., Leroy, P., Berry, J., Healy, M., Doyle, C., Masterson, K. (2021) A systematic concept analysis of ‘technology dependent’: challenging the terminology. European Journal of Pediatrics, 180(1), 1-12. doi: 10.1007/s00431-020-03737-x.
  2. Alexander, D., Quirke, M. B., Berry, J., Eustace-Cook, J., Leroy, P., Masterson, K., Healy, M., Brenner, M. (2021) Initiating technology dependence to sustain a child’s life: a systematic review of reasons Journal of Medical Ethics, Published Online First: 19 July 2021. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2020-107099.
  3. Alexander D, Eustace-Cook J, Brenner M. (2020) Approaches to the initiation of life-sustaining technology in children: a scoping review of changes over time. J Child Health Care. doi:10.1177/1367493520961884

Links and resources

Meet some of the leading international researchers in palliative care, discover new avenues for international collaborative research in palliative care, widen your horizons at #EAPC2022.  https://eapccongress.eu/2022/register/ 


This entry was posted in CHILDREN'S PALLIATIVE CARE, RESEARCH and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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