Health Team

Fear keeps many from performing CPR during emergencies

Posted June 22, 2012

— When someone goes into cardiac arrest, every moment counts. 

And while most people know that performing conventional CPR can save lives, many hesitate to help unconscious, unresponsive strangers because they may have to perform rescue breathing or they're afraid they may harm the victim. 

According to Al Byrd, the director of the Chavis Park Community Center in Raleigh, many bystanders don't help because they aren't confident in what their knowledge of life-saving techniques. 

"The barrier for most people is the old way of learning things, in terms of breathing," he said. 

In reality, hard and fast chest compressions are normally all a victim needs until emergency services personnel arrive. 

"The body has enough oxygen inside to sustain until emergency help arrives," Wake County EMS district chief Jeff Hammerstein said. "When we get there, we'll deal with oxygenation."

As for the fear of hurting a victim by performing CPR, Hammerstein said people should remember that CPR could be the difference between life and death. 

"Don't be worried about breaking a rib," he said. "The person's emergency is their heart not beating, and they're not circulating." CPR Myths Fear, myths keep many from performing CPR during injuries

Good Samaritan laws protect those who step up to help someone in need. 

Another thing to look for during a cardiac emergency is an automatic external defibrillators, or AED. They can be found in many public areas and often include voice commands to help untrained bystanders shock a person's heart. 

Hammerstein said AEDs analyze the heart to determine if a shock is needed, alleviating the guesswork for bystanders. 

"If the heart doesn't need to be shocked, it won't even allow you to do it," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • REALY Jun 27, 2012

    If you do it wrong just a bit in todays world they will sue you for all you got

  • unc70 Jun 27, 2012


    A relative survived 12 minutes without a pulse because someone did chest compressions until emergency personnel arrived. Just keep pumping the chest to the beat of the song "Staying Alive".

  • albegadeep Jun 26, 2012

    "Good Samaritan laws protect those who step up to help someone in need."

    doesanyonecare, seven74215, please take another look at the article. If you try to save someone and end up breaking their rib, or they die anyway, you are NOT liable.

    In some places, you're liable if you know someone is dying and needs urgent medical care, but you DON'T do anything!

  • seven74215 Jun 25, 2012

    Sorry but in todays sue happy world the best I can do for you is dial 911! The court systems today have shown way to many times that justice isn't always served.

  • ladyblue Jun 25, 2012

    I think it's because this country has become so sue happy that most people are afraid if something went wrong, they broke a rib, or the person still died while trying cpr that they would be sued later. I'd probably not help a stranger either and that's said this world has come to this, but if something went wrong I'm sure i'd be sued later.

  • Fx432 Jun 22, 2012

    DonsWife, you have it backwards there... Don't worry at all about that"life saving breath" Get on the chest and push hard and fast. The breath means nothing without the circulation, please reread the article.

  • 2gurlz2boyzMom Jun 22, 2012

    You know... even though most people are NOT certified for CPR, you can still give a victim mouth to mouth... as 911 is being called. you might be able to give the victim that life saving breath. and if you're scared of diseases, grab a tissue and place it on their mouth, to use as a screen. be the life saver, not the person that just stands there watching someone die.

  • cwood3 Jun 22, 2012

    Citizensoldier16-repost your statement in caps where people will see it better!! One person reading that post may save a life - today!!

    I have done CPR 2 times in my life. I was so upset by both that I was sick!! We have a responsibility to our fellow man to try and save their life. Yes-hearing ribs crack is hard-but reviving a fellow man is so special.

    Citizensoldier-thank you for your service to all of us!! God bless you!!

  • RanMan Jun 22, 2012

    Take it from a retired EMT-P as well as a Cardiac Arrest Survivor... Someone who has given and received CPR....It is a GOOD THING....The only wrong way to do it, is not to do it....

  • Crumps Br0ther Jun 22, 2012

    The Kitty Genovese story was largely over exaggerated by reporters at the time. Most witnesses only saw or heard brief snippets of the event, and not really enough to understand the full gravity of the situation. In fact, the only witness that knew the full extent of the attack did call the police.

    The point still stands and the whole focus of the article is just that, no one wants to get involved for one reason or another