Ethical Analysis of Withdrawing Total Artificial Heart Support

Erin S. DeMartino, Sara E. Wordingham, John M. Stulak, Barry A. Boilson, Kayla R. Fuechtmann, Nausheen Singh, Daniel P. Sulmasy, Octavio E. Pajaro, Paul S. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives To describe the characteristics of patients who undergo withdrawal of total artificial heart support and to explore the ethical aspects of withdrawing this life-sustaining treatment. Patients and Methods We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all adult recipients of a total artificial heart at Mayo Clinic from the program's inception in 2007 through June 30, 2015. Management of other life-sustaining therapies, approach to end-of-life decision making, engagement of ethics and palliative care consultation, and causes of death were analyzed. Results Of 47 total artificial heart recipients, 14 patients or their surrogates (30%) requested withdrawal of total artificial heart support. No request was denied by treatment teams. All 14 patients were supported with at least 1 other life-sustaining therapy. Only 1 patient was able to participate in decision making. Conclusion It is widely held to be ethically permissible to withdraw a life-sustaining treatment when the treatment no longer meets the patient's health care–related goals (ie, the burdens outweigh the benefits). These data suggest that some patients, surrogates, physicians, and other care providers believe that this principle extends to the withdrawal of total artificial heart support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-725
Number of pages7
JournalMayo Clinic proceedings
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Ethical Analysis of Withdrawing Total Artificial Heart Support'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this