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Why bystanders fail to give CPR to women

| Jun 28, 2021 | Personal Injury

The Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health recently funded a study examining cases of Americans who suffer cardiac arrest in public places. Cardiac arrest is a condition in which one’s heart unexpectedly stops functioning. It affects more than 350,000 people each year in this country and proves fatal in about 90% of cases. However, if a person who suffers cardiac arrest receives cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), their chances of survival can be increased two- or even three-fold.

The study found that if a person suffers cardiac arrest in a public place, and that person is a woman, she is less likely to receive CPR from a bystander. Researchers say that concern about touching a woman’s chest may be deterring many bystanders from giving female victims the life-saving resuscitation they need. Could this era of heightened caution around sexually construed actions actually be leading to preventable deaths?

Findings of the study

Researchers note the commonly held misconception that performing CPR may involve touching a woman’s breasts or removing clothing to gain better access. However, correctly performed CPR doesn’t involve these things. Instead, CPR involves exerting force onto the sternum, and researchers say it can be performed without touching a woman’s private areas.

The study also suggests that first aid training may require revisions, including practicing CPR on female mannequins so that people feel less worried about performing CPR on women.

There were no notable gender differences discovered in cases of cardiac arrest occurring in hospitals or at home. For hospital settings, this data shouldn’t be surprising, as medical professionals are thoroughly trained in performing CPR. Researchers also believe that CPR administration is more equal in a home setting because people are less hesitant to perform CPR on their loved ones.

Bystander protections

The study suggests that fears of potential consequences may deter many bystanders from stepping in to perform CPR on a stranger in need. However, it’s important to understand that Texas’s Good Samaritan law protects people who are acting in good faith to provide emergency care. For example, if you administer CPR to a stranger and inadvertently break their rib in the process, you are not liable for that injury.

Bystanders have no legal duty to step in and help when they see a fellow human in distress. However, in an emergency situation, many feel an ethical duty to administer care. Dispelling myths about what CPR entails and understanding Good Samaritan protections under the law can make bystanders more likely to do just that.