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Witnessing CPR on Loved Ones Might be Beneficial, Study Reports

Update Date: Mar 14, 2013 11:26 AM EDT

It is always tough losing a loved one, but according to a new study, witnessing CPR minutes before the death of a loved one can help with coping mechanisms. The study done in France found that family members who stayed and watched the cardiopulmonary resuscitation had better mental health months after the death. Although there is no one underlying concrete explanation for this finding, the study can help people by influencing doctors and hospitals to at least offer the option of watching CPR.

The researchers analyzed 570 relatives of patients who needed CPR, which was administered by 15 different French emergency medical services. The medical services were randomly assigned to different cases and each one was required to ask the relatives whether or not they wanted to stay in the room and watch or leave and wait for the results. CPR is usually done at the home because 80 percent of cardiac arrests happen randomly and thus, the fastest care is through these emergency medical professionals. The researchers found that almost eight out of 10 relatives chose to stay where as 43 percent decided not to. Based from these numbers, the researchers found that the relatives who did not witness the CPR and subsequent death had a 60 percent increased rate for developing symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

The researchers also found that performing CPR within the households in the presence of relatives did not increase the survival rates of the patients. It also did not increase the stress levels for the medical personnel or team who were performing the CPR despite being under the eye of many family members and it did not lead to any more legal claims surrounding the cause of death.

"I was surprised there wasn't a greater perception of stress among medical personnel. If you asked physicians or other caregivers about having relatives in the room while resuscitation was taking place, most would anticipate the stress levels being higher, and this study didn't bear this out," said the co-author of the study, Stephen Borron, who is a program director of the medical toxicology fellowship program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Researchers believe that witnessing CPR leads to a better coping system because the relatives do not have to worry that something was done incorrectly by the professionals. They can see firsthand how every step was taken and that the medical personnel put in effort in trying to save the patient. Cardiac arrest kills roughly 600,000 people per year who reside in industrialized nations.

The study was published in the New England Journal Of Medicine

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