December 15, 2010; Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Throwing away old pacemakers is a heartless act, and that’s why researchers at the University of Michigan Hospitals have started Project My Heart-Your Heart to prove that the devices can be safely reused to save lives. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about 1 million people in poor countries die each year from not having access to pacemakers that correct slow or irregular heart beats.
Dr. Timir Baman, cardiac electrophysiology fellow at the University of Michigan Hospitals said he co-founded Project My Heart-Your Heart “to once and for all prove” that reusing pacemakers is “a safe and effective therapy for those who can’t afford the device.” The idea came from one of his patients who said she wanted to arrange for her pacemaker to be donated after she died.
Baman said he was skeptical at first, but after looking into it he found that while the FDA forbids pacemakers from being used again in patients in the U.S., other groups have been successfully shipping them abroad for years to be used again. To make pacemaker donations for reuse a legal practice, Baman’s group is seeking official FDA approval.
In addition to conducting research to prove both the safety and effectiveness of pacemaker recycling, the group has begun contacting funeral homes asking them to contribute pacemakers that are removed from bodies to be cremated to prevent explosions. Project My Heart-Your Heart provides free postage-paid shipping boxes that funeral directors can request from www.myheartyourheart.org.
“We are trying to create a model that can be reproduced on a larger scale,” Baman said. “There’s been a lot academic institutions that have expressed interest in what we are doing. They are following us to see what kind of model we set up, which is we why we are being extremely diligent.”—Bruce Trachtenberg