Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as we recognize it today came into existence in the 1960s. Three doctors decided to combine mouth-to-mouth breathing with chest compressions to create this life-saving action. At around the same time, the American Heart Association (AHA) began a program to educate physicians in cardiac resuscitation, and this program developed into CPR training for the general public.
More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital each year.
- 18.8 percent occur in public settings
- 69.5 percent occur at home
- 11.7 percent occur in long-term care facilities
The sooner after someone collapses that CPR is initiated, the better the outcome is for the victim. However, many bystanders, even professionals, are sometimes hesitant to start CPR on a stranger. Even people with certifications in CPR are reluctant to do more than dial 9-1-1 and wait for EMS.
Read our post The Proper Way to Perform CPR
Possible Reasons for Reluctance
- Afraid of being legally liable in case of injury
- Not sure how to perform CPR
- Afraid to put skills learned in class to test in a real-life situation
- Do not want to touch a stranger
When it comes to legal concerns surrounding lay rescue (the administration of CPR by someone who is not a trained health care professional), consider this statement from the AHA:
“It is important for lay rescuers to know that they do not have to fear a lawsuit if they give CPR. No lay rescuer has ever been successfully sued for performing CPR because lay rescuers are 'Good Samaritans' and are protected by 'Good Samaritan' laws.”
Some bystanders may know the mechanics of CPR, and may have obtained CPR certification or training, but are still uncomfortable stepping in and providing CPR care in the event of an emergency. The AHA says, “If it’s not part of your job, you have no legal duty to give CPR. But some people think you have an ethical duty to give CPR.”
Neal Murff, CPR instructor and former instructor at the Kansas City Fire Academy in Missouri, begins all CPR classes by addressing this fear. Murff says, “I always make it a point to tell students, ‘If you’re in a situation where CPR is necessary, the worst thing that can possibly happen has already happened.’ They aren’t going to make things worse, but they do have the potential to make things better and save a life.”
Several states, including Pennsylvania as of June 2019, have created laws that require high schools to train students in CPR before graduation. According to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, “Each additional set of hands trained to do CPR increases the likelihood that a cardiac arrest will be reversed.”
Statistics back up Gov. Wolf. Research has shown that nearly 45 percent out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims survive when bystander CPR is administered. CPR training in schools emphasize a simple, two-step process:
- Step 1: Call 9-1-1.
- Step 2: Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.
One reason hands-only CPR has been accepted by the AHA is because of bystander reluctance. In many AHA classes, compressions are emphasized more than they have been in the past. The result of more people being trained in CPR – including hands-only CPR – could have a major effect on communities. Nicole Olmstead, Senior Government Relations Director for the AHA in Arizona writes in a blog post for the AHA, “Bystander CPR can increase the chances of survival by two to three times compared to having no CPR performed and waiting for paramedics.”
Pocket Nurse offers many types of CPR trainers, including those that are compatible with the 2019 AHA guidelines about feedback devices.
To read more about Good Samaritan laws and legal aspects of CPR, read “CPR: Legal and Ethical Issues” by the AHA.