Background: Destination therapy (DT) is the permanent implantation of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) in patients with end-stage, severe heart failure who are ineligible for heart transplantation. DT improves both the quality of life and prognosis of patients with end-stage heart failure. However, there are also downsides to DT such as life-threatening complications and the potential for the patient to live beyond their desired length of life following such major complications. Because of deeply ingrained cultural and religious beliefs regarding death and the sanctity of life, Japanese society may not be ready to make changes needed to enable patients to have LVADs deactivated under certain circumstances to avoid needless suffering. Main text: Western ethical views that permit LVAD deactivation based mainly on respect for autonomy and dignity have not been accepted thus far in Japan and are unlikely to be accepted, given the current Japanese culture and traditional values. Some healthcare professionals might regard patients as ineligible for DT unless they have prepared advance directives. If this were to happen, the right to prepare an advance directive would instead become an obligation to do so. Furthermore, patient selection for DT poses another ethical issue. Given the predominant sanctity of life principle and lack of cost-consciousness regarding medical expenses, medically appropriate exclusion criteria would be ignored and DT could be applied to various patients, including very old patients, the demented, or even patients in persistent vegetative states, through on-site judgment. Conclusion: There is an urgent need for Japan to establish and enact a basic act for patient rights. The act should include: respect for a patient's right to self-determination; the right to refuse unwanted treatment; the right to prepare legally binding advance directives; the right to decline to prepare such directives; and access to nationally insured healthcare. It should enable those concerned with patient care involving DT to seek ethical advice from ethics committees. Furthermore, it should state that healthcare professionals involved in the discontinuation of life support in a proper manner are immune to any legal action and that they have the right to conscientiously object to LVAD deactivation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Issues, ethics and legal aspects
- Health(social science)
- Health Policy