Evaluating shared decision making for dialysis initiation: A qualitative study on patient refusal of long-term dialysis in Taiwan

Yi Ting Kuo, Chang Chyi Jenq, Uen Shuen Li, Ya Ping Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: Previous studies have explored shared decision making (SDM) implementation to determine the renal replacement therapy modality; however, the SDM approach for dialysis initiation, especially when patients refuse physician suggestions for long-term dialysis, remains unclear. Aims and Objectives: This study aimed to explore physicians' responses towards patients' refusal of long-term dialysis during the SDM process and the thinking processes of both physicians and patients regarding dialysis refusal. Method: We conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with 10 patients diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, each of whom refused long-term dialysis after physicians employed the SDM framework, and nine nephrologists at the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan, from March to May 2020. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and translated from Mandarin to English. They were then thematically analysed. Results: Three main themes on dialysis initiation SDM implementation and the differences between physician and patient perceptions on patient treatment refusal were yielded. While the SDM approach for dialysis initiation developed by nephrologists in Taiwan respects patient decisions, physicians often actively persuade patients to undergo dialysis in case of treatment refusal. The motivation behind this approach is to promote the patient's best medical interests, particularly post-dialysis life quality, and to ensure a ‘rational’ medical decision is made. However, patients' perceptions of treatment refusal differ significantly from those of physicians, and their decision-making process is often iterative and based on comprehensive evaluation of immediate concerns beyond biomedical factors. Conclusions: Findings suggest that the current physician-led SDM approach for dialysis initiation characterises active persuasion with physicians' perspectives predominating the clinical encounter. To improve SDM implementation, we propose that physicians should acknowledge and understand patients' reasoning for dialysis refusal and the distinction between objective health and subjective well-being during the decision-making process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-183
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • dialysis initiation discussion
  • long-term dialysis
  • physician-patient communication
  • renal replacement therapy
  • shared decision making


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