[Refusal of initiation of dialysis by elderly patients with chronic renal failure]

Nihon Ronen Igakkai Zasshi. 2005 Jul;42(4):417-22. doi: 10.3143/geriatrics.42.417.
[Article in Japanese]


Aim: Refusal of dialysis is not uncommon in elderly patients with chronic renal failure. In this study, we retrospectively inspected our dealings with patients who refused our offer to initiate dialysis. In addition, we discussed how to grasp the meaning of this phenomenon.

Methods: We treated 152 patients with advanced chronic renal failure aged 60 years and over at Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital. The patients fulfilling the following two criteria were considered to be refusal cases. The first criterion was that an acceptance of the initiation of dialysis could not be obtained in spite of repeated counseling. The second criterion was that a definite outcome was precipitated by the development of severe uremic symptoms. In every refusal case, clinical characteristics and household members were surveyed. Verbal expressions of the reasons for refusal were retrieved from medical charts. The outcome was also studied.

Results: The two criteria were fulfilled in 7 cases. The male/female ratio was 5:2. The age was 78 +/- 7 years (mean +/- standard deviation). All but one cases were ambulatory, and all cases had normal cognitive function. Four cases were married, and the other cases had lost their partners. The number of household members was 3.9 +/- 1.8. We speculated that every case could maintain a good quality of life even after the initiation of dialysis. Representative expressions of the reasons for refusal were "I have already lived fully" and "I would prefer to accept death rather than dialysis". The outcome was urgent initiation of dialysis (five cases) and death (two cases). The time between initial counseling and the outcome was 115 +/- 37 days.

Conclusion: Accepting or refusing dialysis therapy is a selection related to life or death. We must make an effort to obtain consent to initiating dialysis if patients are assessed as suitable for dialysis.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Refusal / psychology*