Public expectations of survival following cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Acad Emerg Med. 2000 Jan;7(1):48-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2000.tb01891.x.


Previous studies have demonstrated that the public maintains unrealistic expectations of the potential for successful recovery following administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Others have attributed this phenomenon to misrepresentation of CPR outcomes on television and other sources of public information.

Objectives: To determine public expectations of CPR and correlate these expectations with various sources of information regarding CPR, including age, television, personal medical training, public programs, friends/family with medical training, and personal experience with CPR.

Methods: A written survey was randomly distributed to local church congregations and completed on a voluntary basis.

Results: Ninety-six percent of the respondents expected CPR to be unrealistically effective. Those factors found to increase predicted CPR survival rate were as follows: 1) being under 50 years of age, 2) use of television as a source of information regarding CPR, 3) personal medical training, and 4) use of public programs about CPR. Neither exposure to friends or family with medical training nor personal experience with CPR resulted in increased CPR survival predictions.

Conclusions: Regardless of the source, the public is not accurately informed about the effectiveness of CPR. This creates a situation in which people may elect CPR for themselves or for family members when survival, not to mention recovery, is unlikely. Without dissemination of realistic statistics regarding survival and recovery following CPR, the public will maintain unrealistic expectations of CPR, and be unable to make well-informed decisions concerning its use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Television
  • Treatment Outcome