“Dying woman denied CPR,” “Woman’s death prompts criminal investigation,” Journal, March 5 and 6.
Mariko Yamada, chair of the California Assembly Aging and Long-term Care Committee, termed the refusal of an independent living facility to perform CPR on an elderly resident, “a tragedy” that caused “alarm and concern.”
Where is the common sense?
The downward force exerted on the chest by CPR can result in fractured ribs; especially in the elderly, whose bones are more fragile. Broken ribs are not only painful; they can also puncture a lung and lead to mechanical ventilation and the need for a chest tube to reinflate the lung. Fractured ribs can also lacerate the liver or spleen.
On television, 75 percent of the time the victim receiving CPR is successfully revived. The fact is, CPR is almost never successful. The cold, hard truth is that CPR is less than 3 percent effective for elderly victims with medical problems. (“CPR is less effective than we think,” George Lumberg, M.D.)
When an elderly person has stopped breathing because of heart problems or pneumonia, especially when other medical problems are present, CPR has a very low success rate and creates complications and tribulations the recipient of the CPR didn’t want and didn’t ask for.
The low success rate of CPR may be an example of how a medical myth is perpetuated by the media because it is more appealing than the truth.
Unfortunately, sugar-coating the concept of CPR leads to unrealistic expectations.
For more information, research, “How Doctors Die — What Doctors Want from End of Life Care.”
Carol Young, Auburn