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Uncertainty makes bystanders less likely to give women CPR

Posted at 5:07 PM, Nov 13, 2017

Although thousands of people learn CPR, women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander. And they are more likely to die.

A new study found only 39 percent of women suffering cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR versus 45 percent of men. And men were 23 percent more likely to survive.

"It's not hugely surprising but rather anyone that has a different body type than this adult male half mannequin of a person we're going to have some hesitation when we figure out how to handle that situation," says Stephen Wolfstich, CEO of Remote Emergency Services + Training.

Wolfstich says because of that, people often have questions before starting CPR on women. "Do I remove their shirt?" Wolfstich says. "Do I remove their bra? What's my hand placement? Is it appropriate for me to be putting my hands on a female chest? Are there bystanders around and how are they going to react and where does my liability stand."

He tells students they are protected by the Good Samaritan Law. And CPR only requires touching the center of the chest.

"You're not actually pressing down on the breast," Wolfstich says. "It is not going to injure anything, you're putting all of your weight directly onto that breastbone."

He and other experts say instruction must be more inclusive, and there is no time to waste.

"Us simply hesitating on do I want to put my hands on their chest that could be five or 10 seconds, "Woldstich says. "15, 20 seconds that goes by where we decide for ourselves is this okay with me. "Well if too much time goes by it's not okay with either one of them."

The study is in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. It involved nearly 20,000 cases across the U.S. It's the first to look at the response when it comes to helping men compared to women by the general public.