Witnessing the attempted resuscitation of a loved one is likely to be traumatic and distressing. However, because the majority of patients requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) die, this raises the question, within the hospital environment, of whether relatives should be invited to be present. There is a distinct lack of nursing research available on this subject, particularly with regard to the possible long-term effects on relatives. Much of the information is anecdotal and focuses on the positive aspects of this practice. With particular reference to the intensive care unit (ICU), the discussion in this paper includes not only family presence during CPR from the perspective of the patient, relatives and healthcare professionals, but also the potential legal implications. Recommendations for nursing practice are offered.