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Med Law. 2012 Sep;31(3):355-63.

Cardiovascular implantable electronic devices: patient education, information and ethical issues.

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MCU-PH, Forensic and Medical Law Unit, Amiens University Hospital, Amiens, France.


Cardiovascular implantable electronic devices (CIED) are implanted increasingly frequently. CIEDs are indicated for the treatment of bradycardia, tachycardia and heart failure and therefore improve quality of life and life expectancy. CIED can treat ventricular arrhythmias that would be fatal without immediate care. However, CIEDs raise several patient education, medico-legal, and ethical questions that will be addressed in this article. Information is a patient's right, and necessary for informed consent. When implanting a CIED, the patient must be educated about the need for the device, the function of the device, any restrictions that apply postimplant, and postimplant follow-up methods and schedules. This transfer of information to the patient makes the patient responsible. The occupational physician can determine whether a patient wearing a CIED is able to work. Under current French law, patients are not prohibited from working while wearing a CIED. However, access to certain job categories remains limited, such as jobs involving mechanical stress to the chest, exposure to electromagnetic fields, or jobs requiring permanent vigilance. Pacemakers and defibrillators are medical treatments and are subject to the same ethical and clinical considerations as any other treatment. However, stopping a pacemaker or a defibrillator raises different ethical issues. Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator shocks can be considered to be equivalent to resuscitation efforts and can be interpreted as being unreasonable in an end-of-life patient. Pacing is painless and it is unlikely to unnecessarily prolong the life of a patient with a terminal disease. Patients with a CIED should live as normally as possible, but must also be informed about the constraints related to the device and must inform each caregiver about the presence of the device. The forensic and ethical implications must be assessed in relation to current legislation.

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