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For Patients With Heart Failure, Little Guidance as Death Nears


Ricky Hurst’s doctors told him last year that there was nothing more they could do. His heart was failing and he should get his affairs in order. The end was coming.

His family gathered. He spoke to his pastor and resigned himself to death. “If it was meant to be, it was meant to be,” he said.

But. Mr. Hurst, 56, a former ranger and school football coach in Jackson, Mich., is still alive, although his heart continues to weaken. And patients like him are raising a new dilemma for doctors.

Heart disease once killed ruthlessly and quickly; patients like Mr. Hurst succumbed to heart attacks and sudden death from cardiac arrest. But with improved medical care and implanted devices that bolster the heart, a growing number of heart patients survive for years, even decades, coping with a chronic, progressive condition punctuated by crises and hospitalizations.

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