Survey uncovers fears about CPR

By Amy Fredette

Arizona Summer Wildcat

It seems as though people are more apt to kiss a stranger in a bar than they are to perform CPR on somebody in cardiac arrest in a restaurant.

According to a recently completed study, fear of disease transmission was the main reason why participants would be hesitant to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation on a stranger.

The study was conducted in fall 1993 by the UA Health Sciences Center and was brought to completion this year. The study also revealed that people are more inclined to administer chest compressions rather than mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"To my knowledge, there's no decrease in the frequency of kissing in this period," said Dr. Robert A. Berg, associate professor of pediatrics and one of the study's authors.

"So if risks are the same, then (people) are being irrational about kissing people or not giving CPR."

Lori Hargis, a UA Management Information System senior, said she feels the media has a significant impact on people's unwillingness to act if a stranger went into cardiac arrest. "I think when people are misinformed they act irrationally," she said.

Berg said that although he did not feel that the media was to blame, it was his belief that education has not been "particularly effective."

"There are very small risks of getting an infectious disease," he said. "The frequency of AIDS transmission is incredibly small. In fact, I am not aware of anybody contracting AIDS through CPR."

Hargis said that fear of contracting a disease would not interfere with her ability to assist someone in need.

"At the time, I wouldn't be thinking about disease," Hargis said. "I would be thinking about 'can I save this person's life?'"

Surveys for the study containing four situations in which a person collapsed and needed help were sent to 3,420 people on the mailing list of University Heart Center. The average age of participants was 58.

Participants were to assume they had prior training and were asked how they would respond to the different scenarios, ranging from assisting a stranger versus a close friend or relative .

The outcome of the study showed that 82 percent of the participants were "very concerned" or "moderately concerned" about contracting a disease through mouth-to mouth resuscitation. Fifteen percent said they would "definitely" perform CPR on a stranger, whereas 78 percent said they would only perform chest compressions.

Seventy-four percent said they would "definitely" perform CPR (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions) on a friend or relative.

Berg said that when somebody has a cardiac arrest, calling for help and administering CPR is "the most profound thing a person can do."

"If you're not willing to perform mouth-to mouth, at least do chest compressions," he said.

"With everything going on today, I hope I could get over it (the thought of disease)," said Flor Lopez, a bilingual education senior.

"I think it would be kind of cruel if someone who knew how to do it just stood there and did nothing."

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