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Pacemaker: What happens when it's turned off?

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Old 08-20-2007, 02:47 AM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Los Andeles, CA, US
Posts: 1
2007 HB User
Question Pacemaker: What happens when it's turned off?


We are at our wits end. We're wrestling with the question of whether to turn off Dad's pacemaker (his defibulator had already been turned off a couple months ago). But we can't find clear information on what REALLY happens (or doesn't happen) when one is turned off.

Is there pain? Does it hasten the end of suffering (that's what we're hoping for, and what Dad wants).

If you have any info. about this, or have struggled with this in your own situation, can you please reply? Below is more information about our specific situation, in case that helps you reply. Thank you in advance!!!

---Dad's ejection fraction is below 15% to 20% (per his cardiologost, this was the rate back in April, BEFORE he lost weight, had Urinary Tract Infection, and before he went 2 1/2 days without food - that happened about 10 days ago - due to accidental overdose of a pain med at the nursing home that caused him to sleep nearly 2 days).
---he has lost 30 pounds in the last 4 months - 18% of his starting weight... went from 165 to 130 lbs. during that time.
---His blood pressure runs around 85/45 now, and is frequently lower than that.
---Dad's cardiologist says that turning off the pacemaker would only slow Dad's heart rate to around 35 to 40 beats per minute, just making him more uncomfortable but not hasten death. (His current heart rate is consistently around 70-80 beats/minute)
---But Dad is SO weak we can't see how the slower heartbeat wouldn't have the desired effect of shortening his suffering.
---He has developed mid-stage dementia (vascular dementia, we think) in the past 3-4 weeks
---in recent months he has had pneumonia (hospitalized 2 weeks for that), urinary tract infection, edema, etc. etc. etc.
---He is 73, has had a pacemaker for 10 years because of a severe heart attack in his early 60's. He was still healthy & somewhat active (as active as your average couch potato) thru the end of 2006. But this round of illnesses that started in January has proved to be more than his body can handle.

FYI, we are actively working with hospice, too, but they have been of little help on this particular issue - and only moderately helpful on other issues. Dad lives in a fairly small city in Florida and the Hospice program there is very small, and its resources appear to be overwhelmed because of the number of elderly in the community. So we need additional information that hospice has not been able to provide.

Thank you!!


Last edited by 2007; 08-20-2007 at 03:15 AM.

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