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The ethics of pacemaker reuse: might the best be the enemy of the good?
  1. Krishna G Aragam1,
  2. Timir S Baman2,
  3. James N Kirkpatrick1,
  4. Edward B Goldman2,
  5. Archie C Brown3,
  6. Thomas Crawford2,
  7. Hakan Oral2,
  8. Kim A Eagle2
  1. 1Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  3. 3Washtenaw Country Circuit Court, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr K A Eagle, University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, 1500 E Medical Center Drive SPC 5852, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0644, USA; keagle{at}

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Symptomatic bradycardia contributes significantly to mortality and decreased functional status in many low and middle income countries (LMIC). In contrast to the developed world, where bradycardia often results from sinus node dysfunction, patients requiring pacemakers in LMIC more commonly present with complete heart block.1–3 Yet many patients in LMIC have little to no access to electrophysiological therapies, as the cost of one device often exceeds the annual income of the average citizen.4 Several countries—including Sweden, India and Canada—have previously explanted and resterilised pacemakers from deceased donors for reutilisation.5–7 With increasing global disparities in medical care, post mortem explantation and reuse of pacemakers presents a potential means for mitigating the rising burden of cardiovascular disease in LMIC.

Recent survey data indicate that almost 45% of deceased pacemaker patients in the USA have their devices extracted for reasons including family request and risk of device explosion during cremation. Notably, over 80% of these extracted devices are discarded or stored as waste. The vast majority of funeral directors, device patients and the general population support donation of explanted pacemakers to LMIC.8 ‘Project My Heart–Your Heart’ is a proof of concept pacemaker donation initiative that allows funeral directors to send explanted devices to an academic centre for evaluation and resterilisation before donation to underserved patients in LMIC.9 A recent case study of 12 resterilised pacemakers donated through this …

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  • Competing interests HO was a founder of Ablation Frontiers, Inc, and is now a consultant for Medtronic Ablation Frontiers.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.