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Unlike Diamonds, Defibrillators Aren’t Forever: Why It Is Sometimes Ethical to Deactivate Cardiac Implantable Electrical Devices

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2019


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Acknowledgements: Mariele Courtois thanks the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture for its sponsorship of her internship with Dr. Sulmasy at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics in the summer of 2016.



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6. See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 334–5.

7. See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 334–5.

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13. See note 8, Sulmasy 1998.

14. See note 9, Mueller et al. 2010.

15. See note 8, Sulmasy 1998.

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33. It is also important to note that there are no legal reasons for continuing treatments. See note 9, Mueller et al. 2010.

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35. Huddle seems to acknowledge this feature of CIEDs, but fails to capture all of its implications within the small scope that is attached to a “completed therapy” category. He writes, “…the pacemaker itself is acting less like a finger in the hold of the dike (analogous to a ventilator arresting lethal respiratory pathophysiology) and more like a repair of the dike.” See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 332.

36. See note 34, Sulmasy 2008.

37. See note 34, Sulmasy 2008, at 71.

38. This addresses the concern raised by Huddle (note 1, Huddle 2019, at 332), that “Sulmasy’s analysis seems powerless to resolve this disagreement because whether a new pathophysiology has been introduced, the distinguishing criterion of killing in Sulmasy’s scheme, is what is at issue in the disagreement—a disagreement not over natural facts but over the appropriate description of those facts.” This is because Huddle founds his critique solely upon Sulmasy’s basic analysis of the K/ATD distinction (note 8, Sulmasy 1998) and ignores Sulmasy’s application of this basic analysis to emerging technologies. See note 34 2008.

39. See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 333.

40. See note 34, Sulmasy 2008.

41. See note 34, Sulmasy 2008.

42. See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 334.

43. Though this is not to say that all instances of removal (as opposed to deactivation) are illicit. Under appropriate circumstances, a substitutive therapy can also be removed from the body just as licitly as another (or the same) substitutive therapy can be turned off.

44. It is true that the degree to which a physician is involved as an agent in the care of the patient can imply the severity of the patient’s case, as indicated by Huddle: “That is, if physician agency in a treatment is ongoing, as in hemodialysis or mechanical ventilation, the physician is judging the patient to be in an arrested downward trajectory, and it is sometimes permissible for physicians to withdraw their agency and allow the patient to die. If a treatment is independent of physician agency (or to the degree that it is), the patient is judged to be in equilibrium.” But the term “completed” may conflate agency status with treatment status, as it intrinsically is a descriptor of the physician’s relationship to the treatment, not of the natural facts of the treatment itself. Quote from: See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 333.

45. See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 333.

46. See note 9, Mueller et al. 2010.

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49. See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 334.

50. See note 4, Huddle 2019, at 334.

51. “…some ethicists argue that withdrawing is often morally preferable to withholding in cases where one needs time to determine whether or not the therapy is effective.” Sulmasy DP, Sugarman J. Are withholding and withdrawing therapy always morally equivalent? Journal of Medical Ethics 1994;20:218–22.