27 Feb

The Total Artificial Heart: Deployment Costs

The TAH proponents hold that the modest outlay of $10 to $12 million dollars per year for pre-deployment research on all types of circulatory assistance is the only way to learn about the absolute and relative costs and benefits of a TAH. The argument that the TAH would draw funds from more pressing health or social needs improperly assumes that funds for TAH deployment would otherwise go to more beneficial uses. TAH proponents also note that the $2.5-5 billion annual TAH deployment costs derive in large part from the many persons who might benefit from the device rather than from unprecedented per-case costs estimated at $30,000 per year.

Our society encourages scientific innovation for problems like premature death from presenescent heart failure. In this milieu, the severe and persistent shortage of donor hearts will fuel ongoing research interest in the TAH. Arguments for continued trials of permanent TAH implantation would be more persuasive if short-term TAH morbidity were more completely resolved and if the power mechanism offered independent life. Nevertheless, as Casscells has noted, “. . . cost effectiveness has been a theoretical and unpersuasive argument as compared with a dying child whose parents cannot pay for an operation” Now that the TAH has demonstrated its ability to prolong life, it is even less likely that social policy will prevent its development and partial deployment. canadian health and care mall
Because the current TAH is a costly way to prolong life, society might choose to give TAH bridge deployment a low priority for public funds but it is unlikely that privately funded research will stop. Given the continued allure of this device, active public debate as to how to guide developmental research and the introduction of this technology will continue. Ultimately, TAH research will stop only if the device proves to be ineffective or a predictable cause of complications that are unacceptable to research subjects.

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