Women are less likely to be given lifesaving CPR than men, a study of tens of thousands of cases suggests.
Researchers in Canada found that some 61 percent of women, compared to 68 percent of men, received CPR when they suffered a cardiac arrest in public.
Doctors speculated this could be due to ‘political correctness’ and bystander fears that a man giving a woman CPR might ‘seem inappropriate.’
This could put women at a greater risk of death from cardiac arrest than men.
Some 61 percent of women, compared to 68 percent of men, received CPR when they suffered a cardiac arrest in public, the study found
More than 356,000 people have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the US every year, and 60-80 percent die before reaching the hospital.
Dr Alexis Cournoyer, joint study author and emergency medicine physician at the Montreal Heart Institute research center, said: ‘In an emergency when someone is unconscious and not breathing properly, in addition to calling an ambulance, bystanders should give CPR.’
‘This will give the patient a much better chance of survival and recovery.’
The doctors used records of cardiac arrests outside of the hospital in Canada and the US between 2005 and 2015, including 39,391 patients with an average age of 67.
They looked at whether or not a bystander performed CPR, where the emergency took place, plus the age and gender of the patient.
Only around half of patients — 54 percent — received CPR from a bystander, they found.
Overall, women were slightly less likely to have CPR performed on them than men (52 percent compared to 55 percent).
When the researchers looked at cardiac arrests that happened in public, such as on the street, the difference was greater (61 percent of women compared to 68 percent of men). The low rates were found in women regardless of their age.
Dr Cournoyer said: ‘Our study shows that women experiencing a cardiac arrest are less likely to get the CPR they need compared to men, especially if the emergency happens in public. We don’t know why this is the case.
‘It could be that people are worried about hurting or touching women, or that they think a woman is less likely to be having a cardiac arrest.’
Dr Stuart Fischer, an internal medicine physician in New York, also that there may be a ‘sociological component’ to the reluctance to give women CPR in public.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘Men might be reluctant to do CPR on women because they may fear legal or emotional consequences from it.’
‘A man getting down on his knees on the sidewalk with a woman who has had a major emergency, many men may be unnecessarily uncomfortable doing that.
‘It’s not a social occasion. It’s a medical emergency.’
To another passerby watching a man give CPR to a woman from afar, ‘It could seem inappropriate,’ Dr Fischer said. ‘Whereas it’s the opposite, it’s highly appropriate.’
‘Political correctness has to be left far behind’ when it comes to saving someone’s life, he added.
Another study, conducted in 2019, asked participants: ‘Do you have any ideas on why women may be less likely to receive CPR than men when they collapse in public?’
The major theme they found among answers was the sexualization of women’s bodies.
Other reasons cited included that women are more ‘weak and frail and therefore prone to injury,’ which a bystander may be worried about causing.
The researchers concluded: ‘Members of the general public perceive fears about inappropriate touching, accusations of sexual assault, and fear of causing injury as inhibiting bystander CPR for women.’
CPR — known medically as cardiopulmonary resuscitation — should be performed when a person is unconscious and not breathing, or not breathing properly, even if their heart is still beating.
This is called respiratory arrest and will quickly become cardiac arrest without CPR.
If a person is unconscious but breathing normally, they should be put in the recovery position.
This involves pressing hard and fast in the center of someone’s chest with the heel of your hand. Experts estimate patients are most likely to survive when CPR is performed within 30 minutes of cardiac arrest.
In addition, the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines state that all clothing should be removed from the chest before performing CPR.
Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating and denies the rest of the body oxygen-rich blood, shutting off the supply to the brain and causing someone to lose consciousness.
When blood stops flowing to the brain, lungs and other vital organs, their function is greatly diminished, and key body processes needed to keep a person alive are halted.
Brain cells can die within minutes of being deprived of oxygen.
Most cardiac arrests occur when a diseased heart’s electrical system malfunctions.
It causes about 450,000 deaths per year in the US.
Cardiac arrests differ from heart attacks, which occur when the blood supply to the heart muscle is cut off due to a clot in one of the coronary arteries.
Common causes of cardiac arrest include heart attacks, heart disease and heart muscle inflammation.
Drug overdoses and a large loss of blood can also be a cause.
A defibrillator, a device that delivers electric shocks to the chest wall, can be used to start the heart again.
The shock allows the cells in the heart to recharge, which reestablishes the heart’s rhythm.
If a defibrillator is not immediately available, CPR can keep oxygen continue to circulate throughout the body.
The study’s findings will be presented at the European Emergency Medicine Congress on Monday.