Should relatives watch resuscitation? No room for spectators

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6951.406 (Published 06 August 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:406
  1. R J Schilling

    EDITOR, - The article discussing whether relatives should be allowed to watch resuscitation raised some interesting points.1 As a medical registrar I have several objections to relatives being allowed to watch resuscitation.

    The atmosphere of a resuscitation in hospital is very different from that described by the authors. Far from being a calm, controlled environment, it often comprises five scared junior members of staff crowded around a hospital bed.

    It is the job of the person leading the arrest team to instil confidence and prevent panic. I have found that one of the most effective ways of doing this is to appear detached about what is going on around me, and even to make occasional lighthearted comments. I believe that this slightly relaxed atmosphere helps people to concentrate on the priorities of the job in hand and avoid being distracted by unimportant details because of anxiety. The presence of a relative would inhibit this kind of reassurance. I also believe that many relatives would find it upsetting to see hospital staff working in this impersonal fashion.

    Secondly, the resuscitation of patients in hospital is often much more invasive than that described by Michael Whitlock. I am sure that seeing defibrillation or a pericardial drainage would be unreasonably distressing for most people.

    It is often difficult to fit even the most essential staff or equipment into the spaces around beds when resuscitating. This cramped environment would certainly not allow the presence of spectators.

    It could be argued that relatives should be allowed to stay until one of the above situations arises and should then be taken away, but it is often the case that there is simply not time to monitor the condition of both the patient and relative.

    I have witnessed a relative present during resuscitation only once. A …

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