If you’ve ever taken a CPR class for yourself, you know that what you see on TV is a bunch of bologna. Sure, they get the technical information right, but it’s obvious that no one is actually dead, and resuscitation is not occurring. But why does that matter? It’s just TV after all.
It matters because the way CPR is portrayed in media makes people think that they are able to perform CPR in real life emergencies, and this can have real life consequences for both the person doing the CPR and the person getting it.
Here are a few things media doesn’t tell you about CPR…
Did you know if you give a person CPR and you are not certified, if something goes wrong (injury, death when the person could have been saved, etc), you can get in trouble for it?
The family of the injured person could sue, or you can be fined by an actual medical agency for performing CPR without a certification. Just because you “know CPR” doesn’t mean you should use it, even in an emergency.
Here’s another one nobody tells you…
CPR can cause injuries to the person it’s performed on even when done correctly.
If you perform CPR on a person that has frail bones due to age, disease, or deficiency, you could actually break their ribs. If you continue after they are broken, you could even cause the rib fragments to puncture organs like the lungs and heart. This then leads back to the idea that you can get sued or fined for performing CPR in a way that, while saving a life, causes great injury.
Again, without professional certification and experience, it’s best to leave it to someone else. Even professionals have this problem, but they are at least protected by the law and their obligation to assist in an emergency.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t perform CPR at all. If there is an emergency and no one else is there who can perform CPR, and you can but your certification expired a month ago, do it! You could be responsible for saving someone’s life. But if professionals are on the scene, it becomes your job to step aside and let them do their work.
As an addition to CPR causing injuries, CPR is extremely tiring to the person performing it. Unlike in media, where the person comes back to life after 30 seconds of harmless pumping of their chest and breathing into their mouth (without even plugging their nose!) once, it can take minutes for a person to come back with the aid of CPR, if they even do at all. I’ve even heard tales of people who have performed CPR for over 30 minutes on a single individual who finally breathed on their own again.
Doing CPR requires persistence, precision, patience, and a lot of force. It’s highly recommended that if there is another person who can perform CPR on the scene, that every few minutes you switch between who pumps the chest and who breathes into the mouth to prevent yourself from being unable to continue giving CPR. And be ready for muscle aches the next day!
One last thing media doesn’t tell you about CPR is that the “obligation” to try to save a life can be overridden by a DNR – a Do Not Resuscitate order. This order means that a person does not want to be saved in the event that they pass away. Medical professionals know that they can do nothing if a signed DNR is presented to them, and neither can you.
Keep this in mind – until someone produces a signed and certified DNR, anyone that has a medical license or certification is obligated to attempt to perform CPR to save them.
This means that if someone has no heartbeat and their girlfriend says they have a DNR but can’t produce it, you should go ahead and start CPR. As soon as the DNR is produced, once it is confirmed as a true signed DNR, all attempt to save the person’s life must stop. Continuing could again result in medical professionals getting sued or losing their licenses.
Those are only a few issues that media portrayal of CPR doesn’t mention or disprove, but it’s important to know them in case of emergency situations. You never want to be on the wrong side of medical obligation, after all.
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