The Hidden Harms of CPR

August 06, 2023

An old question acquired new urgency: Why was CPR a default treatment, even for people as sick as Ernesto? When I discussed CPR with his wife, I didn’t explain that Andrew’s cancer had caused his heart and kidneys to fail—that he was dying, and that CPR wouldn’t change that. CPR can save lives when patients are relatively healthy, and when the cause of their death is reversible or unclear. Any patient admitted to a hospital is automatically considered to be “full code,” meaning they’ll receive CPR if their heart stops. When Andrew’s heart stopped, just hours after I’d met him, my team and I did forty minutes of CPR.