Study finds overuse of implanted defibrillators

January 31, 2011

A study published by the AMA found that at least 20% of cardiac defibrillators are not only unnecessary, but actually imperil the patient.  The cost of the procedure itself ranges from $30,000 to $40,000.  The harm to patients and their loved ones is immeasurable. Although previous studies had indicated that patients who needed defibrillators were not receiving them, this research by the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C. reveals quite the opposite.  Heart patients who receive one when guidelines don’t recommend it face a higher risk of death and have more complications, researchers say.

There are two primary issues here.  The most critical concern is that a large number of medical providers in this category are violating the “first, do no harm” precept of the physician’s Hippocratic Oath.  These providers’ ideology seems to be based more upon the “Hypocritic Oath.” Exploiting a patient’s vulnerability and trust is unconscionable, and performing a procedure known to be contraindicated is the grossest form of medical malpractice.

The second issue is, of course, the unnecessary financial cost which bloats our expensive health care system and conspires to withhold needed care (with a tiny margin of profit) with useless, expensive procedures (read: high profit margin).

My focus as a patient advocate is empowering the individual.  Often my advocacy results in minimizing aggregate health care costs as well.  There will always be patients who need costlier treatment than what is initially prescribed.  There will concurrently be those who need much less treatment than what is prescribed.

Caveat emptor.

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