A to Z Health Guide

Stopping or Not Starting Dialysis

I’ve heard different terms for not receiving dialysis. What do they mean?

You may have heard of stopping or not starting dialysis. This is also called “conservative care” or “medical management.” This type of care can meet different goals depending on your specific needs and overall health. It can involve managing symptoms with certain medicines and diet. This approach is also known as “palliative care.”

What is palliative care?

Managing symptoms with medicine and diet is also known as “palliative care,” which is care that aims to increase quality of life by decreasing pain or other symptoms. Palliative care is usually not used to cure a disease, but to keep the patient comfortable and as active as possible.

What else should I know about palliative care?

Palliative care is team-based medical care for people living with serious illnesses, such as kidney disease. The goal is to improve quality of life for patients and their families by treating the pain, symptoms and emotional stress of the illness, and providing important support for making decisions.

Palliative care can be used by people who wish to carefully manage their disease without dialysis. It can also be used by people who have chosen to start or remain on dialysis.

Some of the goals of palliative care are to manage pain and other conditions related to kidney disease; help you coordinate your care; and help you cope with worry, pain or depression.

Learn more about palliative care:

What if I choose to stop or not start dialysis?

For many people with kidney failure, dialysis helps them live longer and improves their quality of life. But for some people, the improvement they feel may be a lot more limited— often because of their serious health problems.
 
You have the right to decide not to start dialysis if you feel that the burdens outweigh the benefits to you. If you are receiving dialysis, there may come a time when you feel you want to stop dialysis treatment.
 
People who choose to stop or not to start dialysis can receive palliative care. However, before making this decision, it is important that you discuss it carefully with your loved ones and healthcare team.
 

Can I really choose to stop or not start dialysis?

Yes. People are allowed to stop or not start their treatment, if they wish. You should discuss your reasons for stopping or not starting treatment with your doctor, other members of your healthcare team, and your loved ones before making a final decision.
Learn more about stopping or choosing not to start dialysis:
 
You can also download these brochures:
 
 
 

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.