Radio: iPM on a patient with capacity having her life-sustaining pacemaker deactivated

Last year, the Radio 4 programme iPM ran an item about an adult patient with capacity seeking to have her pacemaker deactivated:

“Who can make decisions about a pacemaker once it’s in my body?’ – After a listener got in touch with an ethical dilemma, we explore what the UK law says about switching off pacemakers and other implanted medical devices.”

Last week, the programme updated the story with details of the deactivation and eventual death of the patient.

“The listener who fought for her pacemaker to be turned off and the US doctor who helps to stop his dying patients’ hearts.”




One Response to Radio: iPM on a patient with capacity having her life-sustaining pacemaker deactivated

  1. Michele says:

    I’m relieved that this issue has gained greater public recognition. There is no doubt in my mind as both a doctor and an ICD patient that a capacitious decision to refuse life saving treatment, even if such treatment may be perceived by some as continuous (differing in some way from declining to consent to a procedure or drug regimen) must be respected.

    The unmentioned issue however is one of timing. Firstly that the patient needed to wait a whole year before her request was fulfilled – a delay that occurred perhaps because she had NOT lost competence so that any advance refusal could be used and secondly because ultimately her medical team appreciated that her cardiac condition had also become her terminal disease. Would such a request be carried out if she had not been in the final stages of her cardiac condition? A difficult situation for all concerned, yet not routinely discussed at device implantation, which is often a time where more immediate concerns take priority.

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