Implantable electrodes for defibrillation are formed of pluralities of electrode segments. Each of the segments is relatively long and narrow. The electrode segments can be parallel and spaced apart from one another a distance at least ten times the nominal width, with one end of each segment mounted to a transverse distal portion of an electrically conductive lead coupling the electrode to a defibrillation pulse generator. Alternatively, segments can branch or radiate outwardly from a common junction. In yet another arrangement, electrode segments are portions of a single conductive path at the distal end of a lead from a pulse generator, arranged in either a spiral configuration or a serpentine configuration which can align electrode segments side by side, parallel and spaced apart. The electrode segments can be formed of composite conductors in the form of titanium ribbons or wires with a sputtered outer layer of platinum, or a silver core in a stainless steel tube, with a platinum layer formed onto the tube. The electrodes are highly compliant yet can provide large effective areas for defibrillation, enabling a transthoracic pulsing arrangement of two electrodes on opposite sides of the heart, implanted subcutaneously outside of the thoracic region.