Developing the ethical framework of end-stage kidney disease care: from practice to policy

      Ethical issues relating to end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) care are increasingly being discussed by clinicians and ethicists but are still infrequently considered at a policy level or in the education and training of health care professionals. In most lower-income countries, access to kidney replacement therapies such as dialysis is not universal, leading to overt or implicit rationing of resources and potential exclusion from care of those who are unable to sustain out-of-pocket payments. These circumstances create significant inequities in access to ESKD care within and between countries and impose emotional and moral burdens on patients, families, and health care workers involved in decision-making and provision of care. End-of-life decision-making in the context of ESKD care in all countries may also create ethical dilemmas for policy makers, professionals, patients, and their families. This review outlines several ethical implications of the complex challenges that arise in the management of ESKD care around the world. We argue that more work is required to develop the ethics of ESKD care, so as to provide ethical guidance in decision-making and education and training for professionals that will support ethical practice in delivery of ESKD care. We briefly review steps that may be required to accomplish this goal, discussing potential barriers and strategies for success.

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