Heart Health & CPR

When someone becomes seriously ill they are faced with many decisions, these decisions often get put on loved ones and family members to decide when we can no longer speak for ourselves. One of these decisions may involve cardiopulmonary resuscitation, better known as CPR.

CPR is used when a person’s heart or breathing stops. Chest compressions, rescue breathing, electric shock, and breathing tubes can all be used when CPR is initiated. Blood must continue pumping to the organs until other treatments can be used to ensure the person becomes stable. Many think that this course of action is actually more successful than it really is. Around only 17% of hospital patients who receive CPR survive. What we see on t.v. and in the movies isn’t a true reflection on how these events play out. The risk of adding more burdens to one’s health increases too – there can be damage to the lungs/cracked ribs, high chance of being put on machines, severe brain damage/personality changes, a higher chance of death and a low chance of it being peaceful.

CPR is most helpful to those with no serious health issues (the person’s heart should not be expected to stop again). It is not helpful when a person has more than one serious health problem, depends on others to care for them, or is diagnosed with an end-stage disease(s). It is important to keep your loved ones interests in mind should you ever be faced with this tough decision. Sometimes what we want for ourselves or even for our loved one, isn’t the same things they may want for themselves. Choosing whether or not to use CPR is an emotional decision at least. Talk with your family and loved ones about your wishes when it comes to this topic. For some, it’s important to live as long as possible, even if it causes other medical problems. For others, it’s important to pass naturally. If you are faced with making this decision for a loved one, do the best with the information you have.

(The hospice philosophy holds that end-of-life care should emphasize quality of life. Patients that elect hospice elect to forgo aggressive treatments at that time. However there is no legal requirement to force this choice by signing a DNR before admission).