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Never too late to operate? Surgery near end of life is common, costly


 


Maxine Stanich was admitted to the hospital after going to the ER because she felt short of breath. She experienced an abnormal heart rhythm in the procedure room during a cardiac test – not an unusual event during a procedure in which a wire is threaded into the heart. Based on that, doctors decided to implant a pacemaker and defibrillator the next day.

Dr. Redberg was consulted when the patient objected to the device that was now embedded in her chest. She was “very alert. She was very clear about what she did and did not want done. She told me she didn’t want to be shocked,” Redberg said.

After Dr. Redberg deactivated the defibrillator, which can be reprogrammed remotely, Stanich was discharged, with home hospice service. With nothing more than her medicines, she survived another 2 years and 3 months, dying at home just after her 90th birthday in 2010.

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. KHN’s coverage related to aging and improving care of older adults is supported in part by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

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