Liam Farrell: Oh death where is thy sting? It's CPR

I recall a kinder, simpler time.

Amoxicillin was considered suspiciously new-fangled, peace, love and rock and roll were the aspiration of a generation, everybody hadn't yet appeared naked in a fundraising calendar (though let's be honest, we know fundraising is just a handy excuse, some people like getting their kit off in public). Life was simple - you were born, you lived, you died.

But all is changed, utterly changed; now it's more like you are born, you live, you die, you get CPR, maybe it works and you live again with or without brain damage, you die again, you get CPR again, this time you're really dead, probably exhausted and with a certain sense of relief.

It seems CPR has become the default treatment for everyone who dies; unless we explicitly forbid it, we will all leave this world the same way.

No-one is allowed to die peacefully anymore; instead we'll have some big sweaty guy pounding on our chest, tubes rammed down our throat, multiple needle jabs, our shirts ripped off and electric shocks administered, and all of it a very public spectacle, as an audience has become traditional.

CPR was introduced around 1960, when a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, US, reported its experience with 20 patients on whom they used a new technique, closed-chest cardiac massage.

CPR has been a tremendous advance, helped significantly by being so media-friendly; what could be more praiseworthy and melodramatic as resurrecting the dead? Medical soaps just love CPR, although their success rates are totally unrealistic.

Also unrealistic are their patients; usually young, attractive, TV-friendly victims, who have suffered some common, everyday incident like a lightning strike. In reality, most CPR is performed on older patients, with a success rate of zero to 18%.

CPR is not risk-free; it can lead to prolonged suffering, neurological damage and an undignified demise. So with a view to my own inevitable death, I'm having a tattoo on my sternum: 'Before you press here for CPR, think: is it worth it?'

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

First COVID-19 jabs to target care home residents and staff under new JCVI advice

First COVID-19 jabs to target care home residents and staff under new JCVI advice

Older adults living in care homes and staff working there will be first to receive...

GPs unable to veto virtual fitness to practise hearings during pandemic

GPs unable to veto virtual fitness to practise hearings during pandemic

GPs facing fitness to practise investigations during the COVID-19 pandemic will be...

Government rejects major NHSPS overhaul - but changes 'could ease GP service charge disputes'

Government rejects major NHSPS overhaul - but changes 'could ease GP service charge disputes'

A government review has rejected calls for a major overhaul of an NHS Property Services...

RCGP urges GPs to collaborate with pharmacies on flu jabs this year

RCGP urges GPs to collaborate with pharmacies on flu jabs this year

The RCGP and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have called on GP practices and community...

GP appointments rising fast as COVID-19 cases 'near 10,000 a day'

GP appointments rising fast as COVID-19 cases 'near 10,000 a day'

GP appointments have risen rapidly in recent weeks as schools returned, according...

COVID-19 impact on medical schools risks 'serious damage' to future NHS workforce

COVID-19 impact on medical schools risks 'serious damage' to future NHS workforce

Medical training and the future NHS workforce could be seriously damaged by the financial...