Recently, we had a client call about his Health Care Directive.  He had had a heart attack in the past and suspected he would have another heart attack in the future.  He wanted health care professionals to “save” him if this happened again, unless of course he would not have any quality of life after the heart attack.  He was worried because his Health Care Directive mentioned “no heroic measures.”

There are two concepts to keep in mind regarding a Health Care Directive.  First, the most important thing a Health Care Directive does is to name a health care agent.  That person will be the one to communicate with your healthcare providers in the event you cannot communicate with them.  So, in our client’s case, he has named his wife as his health care agent, and he has shared with her his desires regarding health care.  So, he should feel secure in knowing that no life-sustaining treatment would be withheld in the event he cannot communicate with his health care providers.

Second, his Health Care Directive provides health care instructions regarding end of life treatment.  These instructions are meant as guidance for the health care agent. Medical professionals will go by the what the health care agent says and not so much on what the health care instructions say.  His directive says he wants no life-sustaining procedures if he is in one of the following situations: a terminal condition, a coma with little hope of recovery, a persistent vegetative state, suffering from advanced dementia, or completely dependent on others for all his physical needs and cannot communicate.  None of these situations apply to an otherwise healthy person who has a heart attack. So, he should rest assured that no one is going to “pull the plug” simply because he has another heart attack.