Ethical challenges of deactivation of cardiac devices in advanced heart failure

Hassan Chamsi-Pasha, Mohammed A. Chamsi-Pasha, Mohammed Ali Albar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


More than 23 million adults worldwide have heart failure (HF). Although survival after heart failure diagnosis has improved over time, mortality from heart failure remains high. At the end of life, the chronic HF patient often becomes increasingly symptomatic, and may have other life-limiting comorbidities as well. Multiple trials have shown a clear mortality benefit with the use of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) in patients with cardiomyopathy and ventricular arrhythmia. However, patients who have an ICD may be denied the chance of a sudden cardiac death, and instead are committed to a slower terminal decline, with frequent DC shocks that can be painful and decrease the quality of life, greatly contributing to their distress and that of their families during this period. While patients with ICDs are routinely counseled with regard to the benefits of ICDs, they have a poor understanding of the options for device deactivation and related ethical and legal implications. Deactivating an ICD or not performing a generator change is both legal and ethical, and is supported by guidelines from both sides of the Atlantic. Patient autonomy is paramount, and no patient is committed to any therapy that they no longer wish to receive. Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) were initially used as bridge in patients awaiting heart transplantation, but they are currently implanted as destination therapy (DT) in patients with end-stage heart failure who have failed to respond to optimal medical therapy and who are ineligible for cardiac transplantation. The decision-making process for initiation and deactivation of LVAD is becoming more and more ethically and clinically challenging, particularly for elderly patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-125
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent heart failure reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Bioethics
  • Cardiac devices
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy
  • End of life
  • Ethics
  • Heart failure
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator
  • Left ventricular assist device

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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