Fatal attraction: do high-technology treatments for end-stage renal disease benefit aboriginal patients in central Australia?

Aust J Public Health. 1995 Dec;19(6):603-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.1995.tb00465.x.


The health problems of Aboriginal Australians, like those of many indigenous peoples, resemble those of the developing world, yet they are dealt with using the tools, techniques, and high-technology medical solutions of first-world health. Such approaches ignore the social components of health and illness, including the need for preventive and educative programs at the primary health care level. The example of endstage renal disease provides a poignant example of the inadequacies of this approach. Central Australian Aboriginal people suffer from a high incidence of kidney disease from numerous causes including non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and glomerulonephritis. The high incidence has led to numbers of people developing end-stage renal disease and moving into the Northern Territory-South Australia renal failure program for dialysis and/or transplantation. In requiring patients to leave their lands, communities and families, this program removes people from the religious and social support network that could ensure a reasonable quality of life in their final years, while offering only marginal extensions of those years. Expensive technology programs are of little benefit and of considerable cost to Aboriginal patients and draw attention away from efforts to reduce the exposure of at-risk Aboriginal people to the factors that facilitate the development of end-stage renal disease.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost of Illness
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / ethnology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Kidney Transplantation* / economics
  • Kidney Transplantation* / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Northern Territory / epidemiology
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality of Life*
  • Renal Dialysis* / economics
  • Renal Dialysis* / psychology
  • Social Support
  • South Australia / epidemiology