Recycling effort keeps hearts ticking
What happens to a perfectly functioning pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) when its owner dies? Some end up in the grave. Others are removed in a funeral home so they won't explode during cremation, and then sit in a drawer or are discarded as medical waste. A few get new life when they are cleaned, sterilized, and implanted in someone in a low-income country who could never have afforded such a device.
Over the years, ad-hoc programs have recycled a small number of pacemakers and ICDs for use in low-income countries. Now an ambitious program aims to expand the number of devices that will have an afterlife. Project My Heart–Your Heart is a collaboration between the state of Michigan's citizens, physicians, and funeral directors, along with the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center and World Medical Relief, a nonprofit organization that distributes donated medical goods in low-income countries. The group plans to work with a hospital in Manila and one in Hanoi, both of which have met the project's strict standards as implant centers. Recipients of the donated devices would not be charged for them.