Withdrawal From Dialysis: The Role of Autonomy and Community-Based Values
Author(s)Eiser, Arnold R.
KeywordsAllowing to Die
Persistent Vegetative State
Physician Patient Relationship
Prolongation of Life
Third Party Consent
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractBy examining the ethical features of dialysis withdrawal as well as tr transcultural differences in attitudes toward withdrawal, one can have a better understanding of the role of autonomy and community-based values on medical decision-making. Three distinctive patterns of withdrawal are described herein. The first concerns patients suffering from an advanced state of physical or mental decline. When a patient or health care surrogate decision maker requests cessation of therapy because it fails to be beneficial for the patient in his or her totality, the physician should be prepared to cooperate, in accord with beneficence and nonmaleficence as well as autonomy. The second pattern occurs when the patient loses decisional capacity, and the surrogate decision maker makes unreasonable requests for nonbeneficial care. At issue is what constitutes nonmaleficence and beneficence in this setting, the provider and surrogate differing on whether continuing dialysis constitutes beneficence. Such a dilemma can alleviated by community-based consensus guidelines with consent of the patient before losing capacity. The dialysis network is potentially a unit of patient and professional community. In third pattern, the patient's decision to withdraw appears to be inappropriate to their potential for benefit from continued therapy. The nephrologist and patient are conflicted on what constitutes beneficence, with the former holding that continuation is morally superior. In such cases, the physician must mediate the situation in a beneficent fashion not solely dictated by a constraining view of patient autonomy.
American Journal of Kidney Diseases. 1996 Mar; 27(3): 451-457.