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ACC: Dying Patients Not Aware They Can Be Spared ICD Shocks

Many unaware that implantable defibrillator can be turned off in final days

hand of elderly patient

FRIDAY, March 25, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Many physicians aren't following the Heart Rhythm Society and European Society of Cardiology recommendations regarding deactivation of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) for patients near death, according to research scheduled to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, to be held from April 2 to 4 in Chicago.

One study of 243 patients with ICDs found that only 38 percent knew they could choose to deactivate their ICD after consulting with their doctor. And only 37 percent knew that ICD deactivation is ethical and recommended by major medical groups.

Another study of 328 patients with ICDs found that 73 percent knew their device could be turned off, but just 12 percent had talked with their doctor about it.

These shocks are often much more frequent on the patient's last day than any other day of their life, according to Silvia del Castillo, M.D., a cardiologist at Fuenlabrada University Hospital in Madrid and lead author of the first study. "I think it's cruel in many cases to leave the ICD on until the very end, and when doctors don't provide enough information about deactivation or delay that conversation until the final hours, it undercuts the patient's right to make their own decisions," del Castillo said in a College news release.

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