Bystanders Are Less Likely to Give Women CPR Because of Breasts

Sexism isn’t just a nuisance to women, sometimes it literally kills us. A study by University of Pennsylvania researchers shows that women are less likely than men to receive CPR by bystanders. The researchers believe this is due in no small part to breasts.

The study involved nearly 20,000 cases of cardiac arrest to analyze how gender affected the likelihood of people receiving help from public bystanders compared to professional responders.

They found that only 39 percent of women who suffered cardiac arrest in public were given CPR compared to 45 percent of men. Men were also 23 percent more likely to survive.

The researchers posited that it can be “daunting” for strangers to push on a woman’s chest and are uncomfortable with the idea of possibly moving her clothes or hurting her.

According to Dr. Benjamin Abella, you shouldn’t have to touch a woman’s breasts if you’re doing CPR properly.

“You put your hands on the sternum, which is the middle of the chest,” says Abella. “In theory, you’re touching in between the breasts.”

It shouldn’t actually matter, though, either way. A woman having breasts shouldn’t prevent someone from trying to save her life.

“This is not a time to be squeamish because it’s a life and death situation,” said Abella.

Over 350,000 Americans experience a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. Ninety percent of those people die, but CPR can double or even triple the odds of survival.

Because there were no gender differences in CPR rates for people who suffer a cardiac arrest at home, the researchers believe that fear of touching women they don’t know prevent people from taking live-saving action.

The research suggests that one source of the problem is CPR training itself. Most people learning CPR in a course will be given a mannequin with a cis-male torso to practice on. It’s not surprising that in an emergency, people might be a little uncertain performing CPR on a female body when they’ve never practiced that in a non-emergency setting.

Using male bodies as a default in these kinds of situations may seem harmless, but there are consequences to not anticipating how science and medicine affect women’s bodies differently.

Seatbelts and airbags, for instance, are designed with male bodies in mind. For women, this means a 47 percent higher likelihood of serious injuries during a car accident, even after controlling for other factors.

What keeps men healthy and safe may not do the same for women. Our CPR mannequins and crash test dummies, among other things, should be designed to keep all of us safer, not just some.

Photo Credit: Flickr

88 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Mike R
Mike R8 months ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R8 months ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R8 months ago

Thanks

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Amanda M
Amanda M8 months ago

People, get over yourselves and do the damn CPR! Modesty is the LEAST of the patient's concerns at that point, and chest compressions are done over the sternum anyway. What's to worry about? Oh, and as a volunteer firefighter/EMT for over 18 years, I can tell you that it works both ways-if I had a dollar for every time I've done CPR on or examined a naked man, I'd have a serious down payment on a used car by now! And truth be told, their nudity is WAY down on the list of my concerns-I don't give a rat's ass about it. Heck, there was one time that the patient was naked and I didn't even notice because I was too busy trying to keep their head and neck properly aligned AND stop a nosebleed at the same time! That occurrence is still a joke on me, because the bystanders sure noticed that the patient was in his birthday suit and when they asked me if I noticed, my response was "He was naked?"

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Dave f
Dave fleming8 months ago

Try to help , You might just save a person from death .

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Betty H
Betty H9 months ago

About 15 years ago, I came across an accident in my neighborhood. A neighbor was driving a small tractor, and accidentally backed off the road, and the tractor fell on him. When I arrived, bystanders had dragged him up onto the road - I saw that his face was quite blue, indicating a lack of oxygen. I had not had proper training for quite a few years, but did my best, as no one else was doing anything except standing around gawking. His color improved, but when the ambulance came about 10 min. later, they could not save him - in fact they said that he would have had brain damage if they had. However, I was glad that I tried, though it was horrible.

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Tanya W
Tanya W9 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Tanya W
Tanya W9 months ago

I would think that if you were saving a life, you'd have not enough time to be concerned about breasts or not!!! Sternum is the area you should be aiming for.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson9 months ago

Thank you.

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