Jun 27, 2010

Defibrillators and the dying

More than 100,000 Americans receive cardiac defribillators every year. The defibrillator delivers a life-sustaining shock to the heart in the event of arrhthymia. But suppose someone is dying as a result of some other condition, for example, cancer or dementia? In that case, the shock that kick-starts the heart can be downright cruel, and prolong the dying process. Deactivating a defibrillator belongs on your list of topics when you discuss your advance directives with your family, your physicians, and your elder law attorney. In 2008 The American Heart Association established guidelines that classified defibrillator deactivation as an ethical end-of-life decision. Obviously, you have the right to make an informed decision about whether to have the device deactivated (which can be done via bedside computer in a noninvasive fashion). However, studies show that Hospices around the country do not always ask patients about the presence of a defibrillator, and doctors can be resistant to discussing deactivation, too. Click here to read more about the defibrillator issue.

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