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Better mental health for relatives allowed to witness cardiopulmonary resuscitation

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f1794 (Published 20 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1794

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Should family members watch as emergency medical teams attempt to resuscitate their loved ones? A cluster randomised trial from France suggests they should at least be given the choice when cardiac arrest occurs at home. First degree relatives given the choice by attending ambulance teams were less likely to report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder 90 days after the event than controls who were not routinely asked (27% (64/233) v 37% (90/242); adjusted odds ratio 1.7, 95% CI 1.2 to 2.5). Four fifths of relatives given the choice decided to watch the resuscitation (211/266; 79%), compared with 43% (131/304) of those in the control group. Researchers randomised 15 specialist ambulance teams, not relatives. All teams included an emergency doctor.

In secondary analyses, relatives who witnessed the resuscitation attempt had significantly fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression than relatives who didn’t. They were more likely to regret being absent (12% of 186) than being present (3% of 289). Their choice made little difference to the intensity or content of the resuscitation attempt and no difference to the outcome (4% of all patients survived one month). The ambulance teams reported no extra stress associated with the presence of a relative, usually a husband, wife, or child. There were no medicolegal claims for damages.

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Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1794