Journal Article

Withholding or withdrawing dialysis in the elderly: the perspective of a western region of France

Renaud Clement, Pascal Chevalet, Olivier Rodat, Vincent Ould-Aoudia and Michel Berger

in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation

Published on behalf of European Renal Association - European Dialysis and Transplant Assoc

Volume 20, issue 11, pages 2446-2452
Published in print November 2005 | ISSN: 0931-0509
Published online August 2005 | e-ISSN: 1460-2385 | DOI:
Withholding or withdrawing dialysis in the elderly: the perspective of a western region of France

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Background. In the US and Canada, dialysis discontinuation is one of the more frequent causes of death in elderly patients on haemodialysis, particularly after the age of 75. The aim of this study was to analyse the practices of some French nephrologists, 17 of whom (in six nephrology units) were interviewed for this study.

Methods. A questionnaire was formulated on the basis of a bibliographical search of the topic. A series of questions, initially open and then more targeted, regarding scientific and non-scientific factors influencing the decision to discontinue or refuse haemodialysis in elderly patients, were put to nephrologists.

Results. Psychological and physical deterioration emerged as the principal factors governing decisions to refuse or discontinue treatment. The interviewees felt that severe dementia (15 out of 17 nephrologists), irreversible neurological sequelae of a CVA (11 out of 17) and, paradoxically, patient refusal (10 out of 17) were factors to be taken into account in the decision to discontinue haemodialysis. Although the main reasons for refusing dialysis were cognitive disorders, severe dementia and irreversible neurological conditions, none of these factors where actually found to be in and of themselves decisive.

Conclusions. This study has shown that refusing or discontinuing dialysis are practices accepted by the vast majority of nephrologists in one region of France. Patient refusal is not a basis for denial or discontinuation of dialysis in elderly patients. Our investigation has demonstrated a consensus regarding decisions to refuse or discontinue dialysis.

Keywords: elderly; haemodialysis; refusal; renal insufficiency; withdrawing; withholding

Journal Article.  4989 words. 

Subjects: Nephrology

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