Treatment Without Dialysis

Dialysis is the standard treatment to sustain the lives of people with kidney failure. However, if you feel you would be better off without dialysis, we can and will support you.

It’s a personal choice

Choosing to stop dialysis treatments (or not to start in the first place) is a difficult and personal decision. We’re here to support you in every way we can. Should you decide to stop or not start dialysis treatment, your doctor will continue to manage your care and symptoms to keep you as comfortable as possible. This is called supportive or palliative care. Here are the steps to take if you think treatment without dialysis is best for you:

 

1. Speak to your family. Let your family and others in your support network know your plans for future care. They can advise you if you wish, or simply listen and support you.

 

2. Talk to your doctor. Make an appointment with your nephrologist. He or she will discuss supportive care (also known as palliative care), explain your options and help you determine whether continuing or stopping dialysis is best for you.

 

3. Make advance directives. Put together your “advance directives,” a written statement outlining your medical wishes. Your Northwest Kidney Centers social worker can help you work through this to make sure your wishes are followed.

 

4. Put financial and legal matters in order. Finalize your will and any other financial or legal decisions that need to be made. Again, your social worker can help with this.

Why you might choose not to dialyze

Your decision to stop (or not start) dialysis is completely up to you. Patients who choose this option do so for a variety of personal, medical and spiritual reasons. Some common reasons include:

 

  • Dialysis will not adequately improve your quality of life.
  • You have too many existing medical problems.
  • You feel you’re already at the end of your life.
  • The burdens of dialysis outweigh the benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Questions

Palliative care, or supportive care, is specialized medical treatment focused on minimizing pain, symptoms and stress. It also involves helping with the emotional, spiritual and psychological sides of disease.

You could live a few days to several weeks, depending on how much kidney function you have, your overall medical condition and what you eat and drink. 

As waste and fluid build up inside your body, any pain you feel can be treated to keep you comfortable. After some time, you will become unconscious. Death is usually peaceful and painless.

Many religions teach that people have the right to stop medical treatment if it is not helping or is too troublesome. If you have concerns, speak to your religious advisor.

Hospice organizations provide care at the end of life to help make sure you are comfortable and have the care that you need. Not only will hospice staff members support you, they will help support your family as well. Speak to your doctor and your Northwest Kidney Centers social worker for more information.

Most insurance plans, including Medicare, cover hospice care.