Education And Debate

Should relatives be allowed to watch resuscitation?

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6945.1687 (Published 25 June 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1687

The sudden death of someone after an accident at a public event can be difficult for relatives to cope with. Doctors' attention is focused on the patient, and the needs of relatives are often unheard. Sarah Adams describes her feelings when her brother died after falling from his horse at the Windsor international three day event, and a doctor who was on duty at the event gives his view. We asked an anaesthetist who was a member of the Resuscitation Council, a cardiologist who runs a resuscitation training course, and a general practitioner with a special interest in ethics to comment on Sarah Adams's wish to be present during attempts to resuscitate her brother.

A sister's experience

S Adams

My younger brother, Richard Adams, had spent the best part of his life riding and competing horses, the last four years professionally. On the day of the cross country phase of last year's Windsor International three day event, he was happy and confident, laughing and chatting with friends. He said goodbye as he mounted. I cannot explain why, but I went back, held his hand, kissed him, and told him to enjoy his ride. He successfully completed 13 fences and the table fence loomed. I have since learnt of five other deaths at this type of fence in the past six years. As they took off the horse did not get enough height over the fence. It went head over heels, catapulting Richard over the fence head first, and landed on top of him. Moments later the horse stood up and I knew that something was very wrong.

I was not very far away from where Richard was lying. When I reached him he had been put in the recovery position and was lying still and extremely white in a pool of blood. Someone …

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