Processes toward the end of life and dialysis withdrawal Physicians’ and nurses’ perspectives

Lena Axelsson, Eva Benzein, Jenny Lindberg, Carina Persson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Nurses and physicians in nephrology settings provide care for patients with end-stage kidney disease receiving hemodialysis treatment along a complex illness trajectory.

The aim was to explore physicians’ and nurses’ perspectives on the trajectories toward the end of life involving decisions regarding hemodialysis withdrawal for patients with end-stage kidney disease.
Research design and participants:

A qualitative research approach was used. Four mixed focus group interviews were conducted with renal physicians (5) and nurses (17) in Sweden. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse data.
Ethical considerations:

Ethical approval was obtained (Dnr 2014/304-31).
Findings and discussion:

Findings illuminated multi-faceted, intertwined processes encompassing healthcare professionals, patients, and family members. The analysis resulted in four themes: Complexities of initiating end-of-life conversations, Genuine attentiveness to the patient’s decision-making process, The challenge awaiting the family members’ processes, and Negotiating different professional responsibilities. Findings showed complexities and challenges when striving to provide good, ethical care which are related to beneficence, nonmaleficence, and self-determination, and which can give rise to moral distress.

There are ethical challenges and strains in the dialysis context that healthcare professionals may not always be prepared for. Supporting healthcare professionals in not allowing complexities to hinder the patient’s possibilities for shared decision-making seems important. An open and continual communication, including family meetings, from dialysis initiation could serve to make conversations involving decisions about hemodialysis withdrawal a more natural routine, as well as build up a relationship of trust necessary for the advance care planning about the end of life. Healthcare professionals should also receive support in ethical reasoning to meet these challenges and handle potential moral distress in the dialysis context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-432
Number of pages14
JournalNursing Ethics
Issue number2
Early online date2019 Jun 11
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Mar 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Urology and Nephrology
  • Anesthesiology and Intensive Care


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