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Kidney dialysis removes toxins from the blood, and it can be life sustaining. Most people cannot stop dialysis unless they get a kidney transplant or if the problem that caused the kidneys to stop working can be treated. Chronic kidney failure cannot be treated except through a transplant, and most individuals who have this condition will die within a few weeks if they don't continue dialysis. Adults do have the right to make medical decisions for themselves, however, and some choose to stop treatment. In fact, in the United States, approximately 25% of those dealing with kidney failure make the decision to stop receiving dialysis.
People sometimes stop dialysis for positive reasons. If a person with kidney failure receives a successful transplant, he or she will no longer need this treatment. People with acute kidney failure may only need dialysis for a short time while their kidneys recover. Unfortunately, donor kidneys are in short supply, and these organs will not recover from chronic conditions. The majority of individuals who choose to end dialysis are, essentially, making the decision to die.
Often, the reason for ending dialysis is an emotional one. Many individuals with chronic kidney failure choose to stop because they are either not likely to receive a transplant or ill suited for one. When faced with the need to continue receiving dialysis for the rest of their lives, many find the prospect intolerable. For some, the quality of life with regular dialysis treatment is very poor. As such, they would rather live a few weeks on their own terms than have the potential to live years with dialysis.
Sometimes, the decision to end dialysis is made for health reasons. An individual may choose to stop because of the side effects and complications common to the treatment. Possible complications can range from low blood pressure and fever to infection and allergic reactions. Even diet may be affected, as loss of appetite is common in those undergoing this treatment.
The decision to stop dialysis can be related to its cost as well. While most insurance programs cover dialysis treatments, many patients still find it expensive. Some patients may see the financial toll this treatment takes on their families and decided to stop.
Before an individual makes the decision to stop this treatment, he should discuss the possibility with loves ones and his healthcare team. In some cases, adjustments can be made to improve the patient’s quality of life while allowing for continued treatments. If this is not enough to make continuing dialysis acceptable, the treatment team may be able to provide advice and support for ending it.