Why do so many people still want CPR?

The BMJ’s Secret Doctor has written about CPR several times. This week s/he wrote about the horrors of CPR again: a woman in her ninth decade was punched in the chest, before continuous CPR for 40 minutes, with 15 shocks, the patient “pulling at the hands on her chest, gagging on the airway device”. Eventually it was agreed there was no chance of recovery.

In comparison, ECT is a lot less traumatic.

Patients are anaesthetised, and given muscle relaxants: “A toe might twitch for a few seconds” before it’s completed. In the ECT example, a patient was “transformed from someone who wouldn’t eat and could “barely muster an answer to the question ‘how are you?’ to a lady who said she felt ‘not bad for an old bird’”. But many people are horrified at the thought of ECT, while insisting on CPR.

As the Secret Doctor says: “If CPR stands a chance of working and restoring the patient to a meaningful life then it’s all worth it, of course. But for the large number of patients for whom it will be predictably futile, but who receive it nonetheless, it’s little else than barbaric.”

So why is CPR still so popular?

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