Dialysis for undocumented immigrants in the United States

Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2015 Jan;22(1):60-5. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2014.07.003.


The United States offers near-universal coverage for treatment of ESRD. Undocumented immigrants with ESRD are the only subset of patients not covered under a national strategy. There are 2 divergent dialysis treatment strategies offered to undocumented immigrants in the United States, emergent dialysis and chronic outpatient dialysis. Emergent dialysis, offering dialysis only when urgent indications exist, is the treatment strategy in certain states. Differing interpretations of Emergency Medicaid statute by the courts and state and federal government have resulted in the geographic disparity in treatment strategies for undocumented immigrants with ESRD. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 ignored the health care of undocumented immigrants and will not provide relief to undocumented patients with catastrophic illness like ESRD, cancer, or traumatic brain injuries. The difficult patient and provider decisions are explored in this review. The Renal Physicians Association Position Statement on uncompensated renal-related care for noncitizens is an excellent starting point for a framework to address this ethical dilemma. The practice of "emergent dialysis" will hopefully be found unacceptable in the future because of the fact that it is not cost effective, ethical, or humane.

Keywords: ESRD; Ethics; Undocumented immigrants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergencies
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Policy*
  • Healthcare Disparities / economics
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethics
  • Healthcare Disparities / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / ethnology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Medicaid / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  • Renal Dialysis* / economics
  • Renal Dialysis* / ethics
  • Renal Dialysis* / methods
  • Uncompensated Care / ethics*
  • United States / epidemiology