The ethics of explantation

BMC Medical Ethics 22 (1):1-9 (2021)
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Abstract

BackgroundWith the increased use of implanted medical devices follows a large number of explantations. Implants are removed for a wide range of reasons, including manufacturing defects, recovery making the device unnecessary, battery depletion, availability of new and better models, and patients asking for a removal. Explantation gives rise to a wide range of ethical issues, but the discussion of these problems is scattered over many clinical disciplines.MethodsInformation from multiple clinical disciplines was synthesized and analysed in order to provide a comprehensive approach to the ethical issues involved in the explantation of medical implants.ResultsDiscussions and recommendations are offered on pre-implantation information about a possible future explantation, risk–benefit assessments of explantation, elective explantations demanded by the patient, explantation of implants inserted for a clinical trial, patient registers, quality assurance, routines for investigating explanted implants, and demands on manufacturers to prioritize increased service time in battery-driven implants and to market fewer but more thoroughly tested models of implants.ConclusionSpecial emphasis is given to the issue of control or ownership over implants, which underlies many of the ethical problems concerning explantation. It is proposed that just like transplants, implants that fulfil functions normally carried out by biological organs should be counted as supplemented body parts. This means that the patient has a strong and inalienable right to the implant, but upon explantation it loses that status.

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Sven Ove Hansson
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

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