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Family presence during resuscitation attempts is associated with positive psychological effects for the observers

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Question: If relatives are given the choice of observing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), does this reduce their risk of developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Participants: A total of 570 first-degree adult relatives of adults who suffered cardiac arrest in the home and were given CPR by emergency medical services (average age of relatives 57 years, 36% male; average age of patients 67–69 years, 67% male). The order of preference for relative selection was spouse, parent, offspring and sibling. Exclusion criteria included communication barriers with the relative and cardiac arrest cases in which no resuscitation attempt was made.

Setting: Fifteen prehospital emergency medical service units in France; 2009–2011.

Intervention: Emergency medical service units were randomised to the intervention condition where a medical team member (an ambulance driver, nurse or senior emergency physician) systematically offered the family member the opportunity to observe CPR. A communication guide provided guidance on how to introduce the relative to the resuscitation scene and how to pronounce death, if required. Units randomised to the control condition followed standard practice regarding family presence during CPR; this included standard interaction between physician team …

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  • Sources of funding Programme Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique 2008 of the French Ministry of Health.


  • Competing interests None.