A heroic measure is a medical procedure that is generally performed to save a patient’s life, while having potentially harmful consequences. Such an action is often high risk compared to most medical interventions. It is usually performed when someone is at risk of losing their life due to an accident or even an illness. Gun shot and car accident victims sometimes require heroic measures to survive their injuries. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is one type of heroic measure that can restore heart beat and breathing.
The reasons for a heroic measure typically include more immediate concerns than most medical emergencies. Cardiac arrest or a stroke can require intervention that is often traumatic, such as the performing of a thoracotomy. If an injury is severe enough and the heart has stopped, doctors sometimes open up the chest and stimulate the heart directly. The risks of invasive surgery and possibly causing more damage are often high in this case. Even types of heroic measures as common as CPR can be risky; the force of performing chest compressions is often strong enough to break ribs.
Heroic measures can include various types of emergency trauma surgery, amputations at the scene of an accident, or administering high doses of medication. Certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs given at high levels can cause side effects that put someone’s life at risk. Most patients who undergo a heroic measure are severely injured, ill, or otherwise stand a chance of dying if no treatment is performed. Blood loss and internal damage, however, sometimes make survival unlikely.
Hospitals usually have policies regarding heroic measures. Some people have ethical concerns about some medical actions, while legal issues can arise if families do not think the hospital did enough to save someone’s life. There is often the option to sign a form that typically prevents physicians from performing a heroic measure if one is necessary. If the patient loses their life under hospital care, such a document usually removes any legal liabilities from the hospital.
A critically ill person can write out the treatment they wish to receive. The guidelines can provide details on medical decisions before a major problem occurs, so family members and doctors can know beforehand whether the patient wants to receive a heroic measure or not, for example. Medical intervention that often falls in the category also usually includes the use of artificial breathing machines, tubes for food and fluids, and other machinery that can restart the heart.