5 Most Common Fears that Keep People from Performing CPR

CPR certification training is one of the effective ways to save a life. CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is one of the most widely known and practiced life-saving techniques. Through chest compressions and rescue breaths, you can dramatically increase the probability of someone surviving a cardiac arrest episode. CPR certifications are becoming more widely known. Receiving training is easier than ever through online classes. However, there are still many common fears that keep people from performing CPR. Just because we have the knowledge, it doesn’t always mean we’ll have the confidence to jump into action and actually attempt to save someone’s life before medical assistance can arrive. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, cardiac arrest is fatal 90 percent of the time if the victim is outside of a hospital and unable to receive proper medical care. Since roughly 70 percent of cardiac arrest incidents occur in the home, it’s vital that someone nearby can perform CPR. Timing is essential. With each minute that ticks by, the survival rate for a cardiac arrest victim decreases by 7 to 10 percent.  

Knowing how to perform CPR is essential. So why are the fatality rates of cardiac arrest still so high? Partially, this is due to fears many of us have that prevent us from actually performing CPR—even if we are trained and certified. Here we take a look at some of the most common fears that prevent people from performing CPR. While these fears are rational, we should never let our fears overrun us and prevent us from possibly helping to save a life.  


One of the medical professions’ backbones is its most essential rule: “first, do no harm.” This maxim may be one of the reasons why many people are afraid or hesitant to perform CPR. Seeing a person suffering from cardiac arrest can be a frightening experience and the last thing anyone would want to do is make it worse. Applying pressure to a victim’s chest can seem violent and it’s possible to bruise or break a rib while performing CPR. Still, in the big picture, a broken rib is nothing compared to suffering cardiac arrest without any form of treatment.


The number of lawsuits in our modern-day is dizzying. Almost every day you turn on the news, there seems to be a new high-profile lawsuit. Additionally, they often seem quite frivolous. The fear of being sued is one of the primary reasons people may be hesitant to perform CPR. No one wants a court date, especially when all you’re trying to do is help save someone’s life. And when you aren’t a licensed medical professional, you may not know what legal protection you even have when assisting someone during an accident. However, most states have Good Samaritan laws designed to protect bystanders who attempt to help someone in a life-threatening situation. It varies by state and country, but most bystanders are protected under the law if they are helping someone undergoing cardiac arrest. As long as their actions aren’t overtly reckless, it’s rare for legal action to take place in the instance of someone providing CPR.


There are two primary steps to CPR: chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, with the latter being the one that concerns people the most. Fear of contracting a disease from mouth-to-mouth contact is a common reason people are hesitant to perform CPR. It is possible, theoretically, to transmit certain viruses or bacteria through mouth-to-mouth contact, but this is extremely rare and there are no significant studies revealing this as a valid concern. Additionally, mouth-to-mouth contact is often not even a necessary step to perform CPR successfully. The American Heart Association outlines a new technique, hands-only CPR, that only requires chest compressions. In some studies, this method has proven to be just as effective as traditional CPR.


No matter a person’s gender, they should receive immediate assistance if suffering from cardiac arrest. However, studies have shown a difference in the willingness of a bystander to jump in based on the victim’s gender. Women are much less likely to receive CPR because many people hesitate to place their hands on a woman’s chest. This, of course, makes it very difficult to perform the chest compressions that are the most critical step of CPR. Of course, it’s essential to respect other’s bodies, especially complete strangers, but in a life or death situation, we need to remember that a sense of awkwardness in no way compares to the loss of life.


Even if you receive the proper training in CPR, it’s an entirely different process when that training manikin becomes a real person who is in desperate need of help. All the training and certifications in the world aren’t enough unless you match it with confidence in yourself and your abilities. If you don’t step in and help, who will? If you’ve never performed CPR on someone in a real emergency, it can seem daunting. But remember: you may be the only person with CPR training in the immediate vicinity and that could make you their best chance for survival.

Many common fears keep people from performing CPR, such as fear of hurting the victim, being sued, or merely lacking the self-confidence to perform the life-saving procedure effectively. While these are all valid concerns, it’s important to remember that inadequate CPR is still better than no CPR. Even in extreme cases where the victim may be injured by the person assisting, a broken or bruised rib is always better than losing your life. Like most fears, our concerns over performing CPR are often amplified by simply not knowing enough. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself and make plans to receive CPR training, which, conveniently enough, can now be done entirely online from the comfort of your own home. Hopefully, you’ll never need to apply the lessons of CPR to someone suffering a cardiac arrest episode, but if you do, you’ll be glad you learned the skills.

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