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Perspectives on Care at the Close of Life
April 23/30, 2003

Practical Considerations in Dialysis Withdrawal"To Have That Option Is a Blessing"

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Psychiatry (Dr Cohen), and Medicine (Drs Germain and Poppel), Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, and Western New England Renal and Transplantation Associates, West Springfield (Drs Germain and Poppel), Mass.

JAMA. 2003;289(16):2113-2119. doi:10.1001/jama.289.16.2113

Cessation of life-support treatment is an appropriate option for situations in which the burdens of therapy substantially outweigh the benefits. Decisions to withdraw dialysis now precede 1 in 4 deaths of patients who have end-stage renal disease. Guidelines have been recently published to assist clinicians in making these complex and emotionally charged determinations, and they include: relying on shared decision making by all participants, obtaining informed consent, estimating the prognosis on dialysis, adopting a systematic approach for conflict resolution of disagreements, honoring advance directives, and ensuring the provision of palliative care. These principles are discussed in relation to an elderly man with dementia whose family decided to terminate maintenance hemodialysis.