Footnotes (27)



Deactivating Implanted Cardiac Devices: Euthanasia or the Withdrawal of Treatment?

David Orentlicher

Indiana University - Robert H. McKinney School of Law

March 30, 2013

39 William Mitchell Law Review 1287 (2013)

This response to Prof. Lars Noah addresses a thorny question in bioethics and law — does the deactivation of a pacemaker or other implanted cardiac device constitute permissible withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment or impermissible euthanasia? As Noah observes, other scholars have addressed the legal questions at stake but not in the sustained way that he does. His article provides an impressive consideration of the issue and will provide valuable guidance to policymakers and scholars.

Why is the issue so difficult? On one hand, cardiac devices are forms of “artificial” medical treatment like ventilators, dialysis, or feeding tubes, and the law has clearly established the right to have any of those other treatments discontinued. On the other hand, implanted cardiac devices can become integrated into the patient’s body in a way that makes them seem like nearly perfect substitutes for the person’s failed cells. In this view, deactivating a pacemaker is not so much like removing a ventilator or discontinuing dialysis as it is like disabling a transplanted heart, which would constitute an act of euthanasia.

Consideration of ethics and law leads us to the principle that what really matters is whether the device supplements or replaces the patient’s own capacity and possibly whether the device is an imperfect or perfect replacement. At a minimum, device deactivation would constitute euthanasia only if the device replaced, rather than merely supplemented, the patient’s own capacity. It also might be necessary that the device be a perfect replacement for the patient’s own capacity before its deactivation should be considered euthanasia.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 8

Keywords: pacemakers, treatment withdrawal, euthanasia

JEL Classification: I18, K39

Accepted Paper Series

Download This Paper

Date posted: May 5, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Orentlicher, David, Deactivating Implanted Cardiac Devices: Euthanasia or the Withdrawal of Treatment? (March 30, 2013). 39 William Mitchell Law Review 1287 (2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2242130

Contact Information

David Orentlicher (Contact Author)
Indiana University - Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )
530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States
317-274-4993 (Phone)
317-274-0455 (Fax)

Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 132
Downloads: 19
Footnotes:  27

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo1 in 0.422 seconds