Author(s): Ying I, Levitt Z, Jassal SV
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Abstract The burden of cognitive impairment appears to increase with progressive renal disease, such that the prevalence of dementia among those starting dialysis, or those already established on dialysis, is high. The appropriateness of dialysis initiation in this population has been questioned, and current Renal Physician Association guidelines suggest forgoing dialysis in individuals who have dementia and lack awareness of self and environment. Patients are, however, also entitled to equal rights and respect, equal access to health care services, and an opportunity to engage in shared decision-making processes, particularly if there is concern over reversibility of disease. This article discusses, on the basis of principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence, the arguments in favor of and against dialysis use, and the process of determining an appropriate care plan. Factors discussed include the current societal trend toward a technological imperative, premature fatalism, survival benefits, and the implications of providing care to patients who are unable to express their tolerance for symptoms associated with the treatment or lack of treatment.
This article was published in Clin J Am Soc Nephrol
and referenced in Evidence based Medicine and Practice