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Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2007 Jan;2(1):107-11. Epub 2006 Nov 8.

Nephrologists' changing practices in reported end-of-life decision-making.

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Division of Nephrology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA.


Because the dialysis patient population is increasingly composed of older patients with high symptom burden, shortened life expectancy, and multiple comorbid conditions, nephrologists often engage in end-of-life decision-making with their patients. In the 1990s, reported practices of nephrologists' end-of-life decision-making showed much variability. In part as a reaction to that variability, the Renal Physicians Association (RPA) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) developed a clinical practice guideline on end-of-life decision-making. To determine whether nephrologists' attitudes and reported practices had changed over time, survey responses from 296 nephrologists completing an online survey in 2005 were compared with 318 nephrologists who completed a similar mailed survey in 1990. In 2005, less variability was noted in reported practices to withhold dialysis from a permanently unconscious patient (90% would withhold in 2005 versus 83% who would withhold in 1990, P < 0.001) and to stop dialysis in a severely demented patient (53% in 2005 would stop versus 39% in 1990, P < 0.00001). In 2005, significantly more dialysis units were reported to have written policies on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (86% in 2005 versus 31% in 1990, P < 0.0001) and withdrawal of dialysis (30% in 2005 versus 15% in 1990, P < 0.0002); nephrologists were also more likely to honor a dialysis patient's do-not-resuscitate order (83% in 2005 versus 66%, P < 0.0002) and to consider consulting a Network ethics committee (52% in 2005 versus 39%, P < 0.001). Nephrologists' reported practices in end-of-life care have changed significantly over the 15 years separating the two surveys, suggesting that the development of the clinical practice guideline was worthwhile.

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