Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sad Reality of What Our Younger Generation is Learning About Pacemakers

A conversation I had last night:
ICU Nurse: "Did you see the video on the guy who hacked his pacemaker?"

Me: "Seriously?"

ICU Nurse: "Yeah, I think it was on Spike TV's show "1000 Ways to Die"
I show this rendition of the entertainment industry's version of "funny" with considerable reluctance, but I think it's important that doctors understand what today's younger generation is seeing these days on TV concerning pacemakers.  While the skit starts off fairly comically, the writers of this script couldn't stop with a hacker playing with his own pacemaker, they had to include a video gamer "owning" the hacker, ultimately leading to "Way to Die #371."

Seriously, if you have a pacemaker, consider not viewing this.  While there have been reports of at least one group reverse-engineering an implantable defibrillator's programmer, the idea of a video game controller "controlling" a pacemaker from another room stretches reality too far.  Still, there are enough components of reality with this skit to create anxiety in patients with pacemakers.  Furthermore, while I accept this was created for "entertainment," there are also enough inaccuracies to be concerned about what our younger generation might think about these devices when they get old enough to need them.

So here's the link.

I'd be interested to see what my readers think about this show's episode: good, bad, funny, sad. 

Perhaps the Heart Rhythm Society should consider sending VIACOM Media Networks (the owner of Spike TV) a letter on behalf of all of us who deal with these life-saving devices every day to make this episode "pay-per-view" rather than free to all as it exists now.



Named Just Bob said...

Watching that piece gave me a case of the willies; the same feeling I get when my device is interrogated. The humor that the movie intended alludes me, personally. I only hope that some miscreant out there hasn't just pick up a new idea for his/her hacking pleasure.

Three Fixed Hearts said...

I have to disagree. I don't believe our younger generation is learning this. Every generation has general jokes about pacemakers - I'm 43 and have a pacemaker and have heard the jokes and, quite honestly, I keep humor in my life - some of the jokes are somewhat amusing. I needed cardioversion and that became a big joke around the neighborhood. Before you ask how and why - understand I have dealt with CHD my entire life. Atrial flutter, atrial fib (amongst other rhythm issues) and BOTH my children have pacemakers. If I ask 99 out of 100 of their peers - even the older ones, computer literate - they really have no idea what pacemakers actually do. We speak at many schools, including high schools. Every techie kid responds with, "Cool." And the question comes up, "Can you monitor it wirelessly?" People of all ages ask, "Can wireless devices somehow interfere?" which leads to the conversation "That would suck" (and a few chuckles) because, yes, that would suck in such a wi-fi world. While I don't think the idea of someone hacking a pacer and purposely causing the death of someone (I believe there was a movie with that as a sub-plot) is funny - I disagree that that is the what our younger generation thinks or is learning or even sits around scheming about, like it's some sort of new exciting rebellious activity. Most kids don't know what pacers are or what they do. And most kids - even the tech-savvy kids - are amazed at the technology of pacers. After learning about pacers, they say "cool" a few times and then they return to much more entertaining technology: their phones, their iPads, and other devices.

suesweeney said...

I did check out this video clip that you inserted. Wow...the least common denominator is even lower that I thought. Both the dead guy and the kid.

Anonymous said...

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DrWes said...


Blogs are not a forum to discuss medical issues due to the non-private nature of the discussion. You are welcome to schedule an appointment via my office to discuss concerns you may have.

Sorry about the inconvenience.