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Chest. 2014 Mar 1;145(3):625-31. doi: 10.1378/chest.13-1103.

Challenges in deactivating a total artificial heart for a patient with capacity.


The use of mechanical circulatory support (MCS) devices has increased sixfold since 2006. Although there is an established legal and ethical consensus that patients have the right to withdraw and withhold life-sustaining interventions when burdens exceed benefits, this consensus arose prior to the widespread use of MCS technology and is not uniformly accepted in these cases. There are unique ethical and clinical considerations regarding MCS deactivation. Our center recently encountered the challenge of an awake and functionally improving patient with a total artificial heart (TAH) who requested its deactivation. We present a narrative description of this case with discussion of the following questions: (1) Is it ethically permissible to deactivate this particular device, the TAH? (2) Are there any particular factors in this case that are ethical contraindications to proceeding with deactivation? (3) What are the specific processes necessary to ensure a compassionate and respectful deactivation? (4) What proactive practices could have been implemented to lessen the intensity of this case's challenges? We close with a list of recommendations for managing similar cases.

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