"Is there life on dialysis?": time and aging in a clinically sustained existence

Med Anthropol. Oct-Dec 2005;24(4):297-324. doi: 10.1080/01459740500330639.


Increasingly, in the United States, lives are being extended at ever-older ages through the implementation of routine medical procedures such as renal dialysis. This paper discusses the lives and experiences of a number of individuals 70 years of age and older at two dialysis units in California. It considers what kind of life it is that is being sustained and prolonged in these units, the meanings of the time gained through (and lost to) dialysis for older people, and the relationship of "normal" life outside the units to an exceptional state on the inside that some patients see as not-quite-life. Highlighting the unique dimensions of gerontological time on chronic life support, the article offers a phenomenology of the end of life as that end is drawn out, deferred by technological means, and effaced by the ethos and experiential course of dialysis treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Renal Dialysis / psychology*