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  • Writer's pictureInstitute Staff

Afraid to Perform CPR on Women? You’re Not Alone.

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

Heart disease “is the leading killer of U.S. women and men alike.” Dr. Sarah Perman is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She noted, “CPR can be lifesaving, regardless of sex.”

Dr. Perman recently led a survey about performing CPR on women vs. men. The results were stunning. They showed “women are less likely than men to receive bystander CPR if they go into cardiac arrest in a public place.”

What is Cardiac Arrest?

“Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It cannot pump blood and oxygen to the body.” Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. Heart attacks are caused by “an artery blockage that diminishes blood flow to the heart.”

  • More than 356,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside a hospital each year. Only about 11% survive.

  • Without emergency treatment, cardiac arrest is fatal in minutes.

  • Performing CPR can double or triple survival rates.

  • If a bystander performs CPR, it will keep the victim’s blood circulating. This increases the chances of survival until paramedics arrive.

  • Men and women benefit equally from CPR chest compressions.

Why Bystanders are Afraid To Perform CPR On Women

Bystanders are afraid of hurting women. They also worry about accusations of sexual assault. The research conducted wasn’t limited to real-world settings. A study was performed using a virtual reality environment. Perman also conducted another study with 54 adults. Many held erroneous information about performing CPR on female victims. Respondents said:

  • Participants were less likely to perform CPR when the virtual victim was female versus male.

  • People performed CPR on 65% of male victims, but only 54% of female victims.

  • Respondents worried about hurting a woman while performing CPR chest compressions.

  • Respondents worried about sexual assault allegations.