The Pacemaker: The Intervention Of The Pacemaker

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THE PACEMAKER Modern medicine is increasingly obsessed with technology intended to extend a person's quantity and quality of life. This has given rise to a multi billion dollar biomedical industry as well as a complex and diverse bioethical debate concerning medical intervention and patients rights in regard to aged care and ‘end of life’ choices. Today there are around 3 million people worldwide with pacemakers and an estimated 600 000 people receiving pacemakers annually. Rune Elmqvist and surgeon Ake Senning in Sweden first successfully implanted the pacemaker or artificial heart in 1958, although American Drs. William Chardack and Andrew Gage licensed their modified version in 1960. The pacemaker is a small mechanism that is placed within the chest or abdomen to assist in the process of controlling abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias. The pacemaker uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate. “In a healthy heart, the heartbeat starts in the right atrium in a group of special heart cells called the Sino atrial (or sinus) node. These cells act as a natural pacemaker for the heart. The heart's pacemaker sends out an electrical signal (impulse) that spreads throughout the heart along electrical pathways. These pathways transmit the signal from the upper to the lower chambers of the heart, which causes the heart muscle to contract. Regular, rhythmic electrical signals keep the heart pumping blood to the lungs and the body.” (June 02, 2011. E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine) Source: Permanent Pacemakers. Digital image. Standford Medicine. Stanford Cardiac Arrhythmia Service, 05 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 May 2014. The two most common causes of irregular heart beat rhythm are bradycardia... ... middle of paper ... ... ageing bodies? How will provide care for the increasing number of old people sitting in nursing homes, with implanted artificial devices acting as the only thing keeping them alive? How will society meet the increasing costs for other aged related illnesses such as dementia and cancer prolonged by artificial means? There are many instances where family members and loved ones question the role of artificial pacemakers and medical intervention in achieving a peaceful death for those in late stages of illness. We must question whether patients and their families are encouraged to make an informed decision regarding this aspect of life extension before embarking on pacemaker surgery, as the function of pacemakers can easily shift from life-saving devices to devices that cause pointless and unnecessary suffering during a patients end-of-life care.

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