Just ask Barbara Brotman. Brotman is a senior assistant director of development communications for University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences and a former Tribune columnist. She smashed her pelvis during a Grand Canyon hike when she was 17, but a partial hip replacement kept her active for decades. When it was time to get a full hip replacement, she found the surgeons unfazed when she asked if she could keep the metal cap from the old partial hip. After signing some releases, she was able to take the shiny, newly sterilized cap home.
There’s also Ron Brown, who over the decades has kept his Medtronic pacemakers. He also sends the company an annual Christmas letter that’s read to employees. (KARE 11, the Minneapolis-St. Paul NBC news station, profiled Brown.)
The Tribune has some pointers for people wanting to follow Brotman’s example:
- It should be pretty simple for a doctor to contact a hospital pathology department and make a request. Patients or family members with power of attorney can legally request the return of organs or devices such as pacemakers or hip implants, according to Dr. Jon Lomasney, associate professor of pathology at Northwestern Medicine, who spoke with the Tribune.
- Hospitals won’t turn over radioactive material or items from areas of the body infected with hard-to-kill pathogens.
- Electrical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators need to be permanently shut off. At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the policy is to send FDA-regulated medical devices back to the manufacturer for evaluation — after which the patient or family member can receive the device back safe, clean and “in a Tiffany-style box,” Lomasney said.