From: The ARRP Newsletter:
You can give your heart or lung to someone else, but federal regulations prohibit donating your pacemaker or defribillator. So what happens to those battery-powered lifesavers?
According to a survey of Chicago morticians recently published in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, most devices are discarded or buried. Eighteen percent of the morticians donated them to groups that send them to other countries; 4 percent returned them to their manufacturer. Nearly half reported throwing them away as medical waste. Others gave them to the patients family, a hospital or a veterinarian - or just kept them in a drawer. "Nobody really keeps track," says James Kirkpatrick, a University of Pennsylvania cardiologist who led the study. "But, we do know that some of the things that happen aren't good."
Kirkpatrick, who's drafting a form that would allow patient said they would be willing to donate their devices for medical research or human reuse. There's disagreement about the safety of reusing devices in people. U.S. manufacturers discourage it, claiming they can't guaramtee that the devices are sterile or sufficiently charged. They prefer that used devices be returned for performance studies.
A Billings, Mt. group called Heart to Heart accepts used pacemakers for donation Eastern Europe; for information call 406-656-7687