"Just Because We Can Doesn't Mean We Should": views of nurses on deactivation of pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators

J Interv Card Electrophysiol. 2011 Dec;32(3):243-52. doi: 10.1007/s10840-011-9596-7. Epub 2011 Jul 30.


Purpose: This study aims to identify nurses' concerns about the clinical, ethical, and legal aspects of deactivating cardiovascular implantable electronic devices (CIEDs).

Methods: We used focus groups to discuss decision making in CIED management.

Results: Fourteen nurses described the informed consent process as overly focused on procedures, with inadequate coverage of living with a device (e.g., infection risks and device shocks). Elderly patients were especially vulnerable to physician or family pressure about CIED implantation. Nurses believed that initial advance care planning discussions were infrequent and rarely revisited when health status changed. Many patients did not know that CIEDs could be deactivated; it was often addressed reactively (i.e., after multiple shocks) or when patients became too ill to participate in decision making. Nurses generally were supportive of CIED deactivation when it was requested by a well-informed patient. However, nurses distinguished between withholding versus withdrawing treatment (i.e., turning off CIEDs vs. declining implantation). Although most patients viewed their device as lifesaving, others perceived them as a "ticking time bomb."

Conclusions: Nurses identified concerns about CIED decision making from implantation through end-of-life care and device deactivation and suggested avenues for improving patient care including early and regular advance care planning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Defibrillators, Implantable / ethics*
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Minnesota
  • Nurses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pacemaker, Artificial / ethics*
  • Withholding Treatment / ethics*