End-of-life care in advanced kidney disease: Ethical and legal issues and key challenges for black and minority ethnic groups

Author: Cronin, Antonia J

Publisher: Journal of Renal Care, DOI: 10.1111/jorc.12082

Publication date: September 2014

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Advances in modern medical technology have gone so far that it is now possible for machinery to keep people alive. To some extent this has led to a misperception in society that death can almost always be postponed because life-sustaining extracorporeal machinery of some sort or another, for example a dialysis machine, can prevent it. However, for some, being kept alive connected to a dialysis machine for four hours three times a week does not represent or even come close to an existence or quality of life they consider valuable. It may even cause unnecessary distress. This may be because they have reached a point at the end of their lives where they would like the focus of their treatment or care to become that which enables them to live as well as possible until they die. In these circumstances treatment and care should properly be that which enables the supportive and palliative care needs of both patient and family to be identified and met throughout the last phase of life and into bereavement. Identifying and acknowledging the importance of such a paradigm shift in the delivery of healthcare, and above all facilitating it, includes taking on the responsibility, incumbent upon us all, to address the ethical issues that are brought into focus. In this paper, I examine some of these issues. I consider the ways in which underlying theoretical ethical principles have informed the development of professional guidance and highlight the dynamic relationship this guidance has with the law. Finally, I demonstrate the ways in which it can be usefully applied to inform and assist clinical decision-making. Key challenges for black and minority ethnic  groups are addressed.