Family witnessed resuscitation in UK emergency departments: a survey of practice

Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2004 Sep;21(9):725-8. doi: 10.1017/s0265021504009093.


Background and objectives: The American Heart Association guidelines from 2000 recommend that family members be allowed to witness cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This is controversial and opponents fear litigation and family interference during family witnessed resuscitation (FWR). The extent of FWR in UK Emergency Departments is unknown.

Methods: A telephone survey of a selection of UK Emergency Departments was performed asking about experience with FWR.

Results: One-hundred-and-sixty-two UK Emergency Departments with an average attendance of 47,000 patients per year participated. FWR was allowed by 128 (79%) for an adult patient and 93% for a child. Of these, 50% invited relatives to witness and only 21% did not permit FWR. The perceived benefits were: accepting that all possible has been done (48%), accepting the death (48%) and help with grieving (38%). Two percent did not think FWR was of help. Few had encountered any problems or interference from the family. Never being asked was the commonest reason not allowing FWR followed by staff reluctance. Most respondents would wish to be present if their child (85%), spouse/partner (64%) or elderly relative (52%) was being resuscitated.

Conclusions: FWR is common in UK Emergency Departments. It is more common when children are being resuscitated than adults. Further research is needed to demonstrate whether it is of benefit to the patient or relatives and its applicability to other areas such as intensive care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / ethics
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / psychology*
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / ethics*
  • Emergency Treatment / ethics
  • Emergency Treatment / psychology
  • Family / psychology*
  • Health Care Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Professional-Family Relations / ethics
  • United Kingdom
  • Visitors to Patients / psychology*