Abstract 9923: The Ethics of Unilateral ICD and CRT-D Deactivation: Patient Perspectives
Background: Decisions about deactivation of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are complicated. Unilateral Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders (against patient/family wishes) have been ethically justified in cases of medical futility. Unilateral deactivation of ICDs may be seen as a logical extension of a unilateral DNR order.
Methods: 60 respondents who had an ICD or cardiac resynchronization therapy ICD (CRT-D) were interviewed at a quaternary medical center outpatient electrophysiology practice. Survey questions addressed the inclusion of ICD deactivation in advanced directives, whether ICD deactivation constitutes physician-assisted suicide, and whether unilateral ICD deactivation can be ethically justified. The average age was 59 (range 23-89), and 70% were male. Of the respondents, 35% had ICDs, and 65% had CRT-Ds. Respondents had had their devices for an average of 6.74 years (range 0.11-25). 82% of respondents were Caucasian, 15% were African American and 3% were Hispanic.
Results: Only 15% of patients had thought about device deactivation if they were to develop a serious illness from which they were not expected to recover, and single respondents were more likely to have considered this point (38%, p=0.03). A small majority (53%) had advance directives, and only one mentioned what to do with the device. Only 3% had discussed device management with clinicians. Most (55%) believed turning off a patient’s pacemaker was no different than not performing CPR or administering external defibrillation. A majority (77%) did not consider device deactivation in accordance with patient wishes to be physician-assisted suicide. A majority (78%) responded that it was not ethical/moral for doctors to deactivate ICDs against patients’ wishes.
Conclusion: In an era of cost-consciousness and scrutiny of resources, management of ICDs and CRT-Ds as patients near the end of their lives create ethical dilemmas. Few patients consider device deactivation at end of life, though a large majority believes that unilateral deactivation is not ethical or moral, even in the setting of medical futility. Advance care planning for these patients should address device deactivation.
Author Disclosures: M.G. Daeschler: None. R.J. Verdino: Honoraria; Modest; St. Jude Medical, Biotronik. J.N. Kirkpatrick: None.
- © 2014 by American Heart Association, Inc.