Pacemakers Removed Before Cremation Go on to Save Lives

Photo by By Steven Fruitsmaak via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by By Steven Fruitsmaak via Wikimedia Commons

When laying a loved one to rest, are so many good reasons to choose cremation. The Saint Louis, Missouri’s STL Today and other news sources are reporting on a surprising new bonus: The cremation procedure reminds us that, even in times of loss, we can still choose to make the world a better place.

If you’re considering cremation for a loved one or in your own funeral planning, you may already know that it’s important to let your funeral director know if the deceased has a pacemaker implanted. Pacemakers must be removed before cremation. Otherwise, the intense heat of the cremation process could make the pacemaker explode, endangering workers and damaging equipment. But what happens to all of those pacemakers after they’re removed?

Until recently, nearly all pacemakers removed for cremation were simply thrown away as medical waste. For people who chose burial, instead, pacemakers were buried with the body. Now, however, charities like Heartbeat International and World Medical Relief, Inc. are encouraging us to choose to share pacemakers from deceased people with needy living heart patients around the world. Yes, pacemakers can be recycled from one body to another! If the family or pre-planning individual chooses to donate the pacemaker, this procedure is used: When the pacemaker is removed prior to cremation (or burial, if the family chooses that), it is cleaned, sanitized, given fresh batteries and given any necessary repairs. Then it can be implanted into a new person. Heartbeat International estimates that one million people die every year in developing countries, who could have lived longer, more productive lives had they only had access to pacemakers. These lives can be saved just by re-using a device that is usually thrown away.

So, even after death, your or your loved one’s pacemaker can live on, helping another heart continue to beat. It’s one more odd, but beautiful way to share the joy of a life well lived.

2 Responses to “Pacemakers Removed Before Cremation Go on to Save Lives”

  1. From martha

    i loved this article. My dad has an expensive icd device which is combination pacemaker and defibrillator. I don’t know when he’ll pass away and hope it’s not for a long time. However, do you know if funeral directors/home charge extra to remove device? after removal, battery replacement and cleaning, who do i contact about donating device?

    thanks!

  2. From Une Belle Vie Customer Service

    Hi Martha – There are two links in the article to two places that would likely have resources for you to donate the pacemaker. Also, if your father is being cremated, the pacemaker MUST be removed, so you can just ask for it back after cremation. If he’s being buried, you should call around and see if a funeral home will remove the pacemaker and if there’s a charge. My guess is they’ll absolutely do it, but some places may charge, while others don’t.

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