Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) save lives in selected patients at risk of sudden cardiac death. However, in patents suffering with terminal illness, ICD therapy could pose a risk of unnecessary futile shocks which could lead to undignified discomfort in their final days of life. National guidelines advise that patients approaching the end of their natural life should be offered a compassionate choice of having their defibrillator deactivated. Following an actual clinical incident involving a patient receiving avoidable ICD shocks in his final hours, we identified shortcomings in communication and gaps in knowledge about ICD management in end-of-life care.
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