Mouth to mouse: People are too scared to give women CPR
One of the main reasons men hesitate to save a life is the fear of being charged with sexual assault
Women suffering heart attacks are less likely to receive CPR from members of the public over fears they could be charged with sexual assault, new research suggests.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement researchers asked dozens of people – many of whom were trained in first aid – why they might be unwilling to give lifesaving heart massage to women.
Several themes emerged, including fears that they would be accused of inappropriate touching or assault, or concerns that women were more likely to over-dramatise, or fake an incident.
There was also the worry that breasts made CPR more challenging.
Previous research has shown that 45% of men who suffer heart attacks in public receive CPR, compared to 39% of women.
Although the chance of surviving a heart attack is less than 12%, heart massage can triple the odds.
Worries about accusations of sexual assault or inappropriate touching were cited twice as many times by men as by women, while more women mentioned fear of causing injury.
Lead author Dr Sarah Perman, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, said: “The consequences of all of these major themes is that women will potentially receive no CPR or delays in initiation of CPR.
“While these are actual fears the public holds, it is important to realise that CPR is lifesaving and should be rendered to collapsed individuals regardless of gender, race or ethnicity.”
Recent research by the British Heart Foundation found an estimated one in five adults in the UK will witness someone collapse who needs immediate CPR at some point, yet the majority of people do not act.
There are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests across the UK every year, but less than one in 10 people survive.
The BHF estimates that 10,000 people die every year in the UK because rates of bystander CPR are as low as 39%.
Sara Askew, head of survival at the BHF, said: “CPR is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest. Every second counts, and it simply isn’t enough to hope that someone else who knows CPR is present.
“You may not feel confident performing CPR if you haven’t been trained or you don’t remember your training; but without your early action the chances someone will survive a cardiac arrest are virtually zero.
“Early CPR can more than double the chance of survival and so doing something is always better than doing nothing.”
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association Resuscitation Science Symposium in Chicago.
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