Not everyone wants to receive attempted CPR, so it is important to respect people’s wishes and to make sure that they are offered a chance to make choices that are right for them.
When someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest due to a sudden problem with their heart, immediate CPR can offer a chance of restoring them to a length and quality of life that they value.
When someone’s heart and breathing stop because they are dying from an advanced and irreversible condition, CPR will subject them to a vigorous physical intervention that deprives them and those important to them of a dignified death. For some people this may prolong the process of dying and, in doing so, prolong or increase suffering.
Attempted CPR involves rapid, repeated compression of a person’s chest, blowing air or oxygen into their lungs, if necessary by inserting a tube into their windpipe, delivery of high-voltage electric shocks through their chest and injection of drugs.
CPR is by no means always successful in restarting the heart and breathing. When CPR is shown in films and TV ‘soaps’ they often fail to show the reality of what is involved and of the likelihood of success.
As with any medical treatment, the aim is to offer it in the most effective way to anyone who may benefit from it. For those people, that requires starting CPR immediately, as any delay will reduce their chance of survival. The aim is also to avoid inflicting CPR on people who do not want it or on those who will not benefit from it and may be harmed by it. Making and recording a decision about CPR in advance and communicating it to those who need to know it can help to ensure that, as far as is humanly possible, inappropriate CPR is avoided.