Depression and suicidal ideation in patients who discontinue the life-support treatment of dialysis

Lewis M. Cohen, Steven K. Dobscha, Kevin C. Hails, Penelope S. Pekow, Harvey Max Chochinov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of major depression and suicidal ideation in patients who stop the life-support treatment of dialysis. Methods: The authors prospectively studied 79 subjects who discontinued maintenance dialysis at eight facilities in North America. Structured interviews were conducted with 23 patients and 76 families. Results: The prevalence of major depression in the sample was between 5% and 25%, and only 1 of 22 patients considered himself to have the illness of depression. Approximately 12% of the respondents were unsure or believed that discontinuing dialysis was the equivalent of suicide. This belief did not correlate with measures of depression. In comparison with the general population there seemed to be an increased prevalence of past suicide attempts. Conclusions: Most patients who decide to stop dialysis do not seem to be influenced by major depression or ordinary suicidal ideation. Although the sample size was small, these results highlight the need to further examine the theoretical framework and terminology of depression and suicide in the context of terminal illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-896
Number of pages8
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002


  • Depression
  • Dialysis
  • Life support
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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