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Dialysis or a right to die?

Post date: 14/11/2017 | Time to read article: 1 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

Patient A, a 57-year-old male, was admitted to the ICU of a private hospital with kidney and liver failure, and in a coma. There was no living will and family members gave a history of long-standing alcohol abuse. The patient was not known to Dr X, a specialist physician. Dr X conducted a physical examination and blood tests. He formed the opinion that although A was extremely ill, he had a reasonable prospect of recovery should he be ventilated and receive dialysis. 

The family members disagreed with Dr X’s proposed management and requested that only fluids and pain medication be administered, and that he be allowed to die. Dr X advised the family that although there was liver damage, there was a reasonable prospect of A making a recovery with a reasonable quality of life. 

Dr X advised the family that he had ethical codes to uphold and that, legally, it was not appropriate at that time to withhold A’s treatment. Dr X made the correct decision but if the family disagreed, they had the option of obtaining a second opinion from another practitioner or apply for a court order. 

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