Why some people are afraid to perform CPR on women

Even in training environments, some people are less likely to use CPR or an AED on female avatars
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 7:22 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - More and more people are surviving cardiac events, but not women, according to the American Heart Association.

Experts say many people, especially men, are afraid to perform CPR on women because of a number of concerns and myths.

In a study of more than 19,000 people who had cardiac events, only 39% of women received CPR from bystanders in public compared to 45% of men.

“I would not feel comfortable, but, I feel I would do it,’’ Brandon McFarland said during his first training class at Sixth City CPR in Twinsburg.

Sixth City CPR is owned by Aubi Nemeth, a nurse anesthetist who offers a variety of CPR classes stressing the importance and awareness of training.

The training includes educating people about the myths when it comes to giving aide to women in cardiac arrest.

“It’s men and women who are afraid or hesitant to perform CPR on women, and I think there’s many reasons, cultural reasons, societal reasons,” Nemeth said. “People may be afraid or embarrassed to expose a woman’s anatomy or to expose her bra.”

A few common fears and myths about CPR may prevent women from getting help.

Nemeth said there is a perception that women may be frail and overdramatize incidents. Many people, including women, also believe females are less likely to have heart problems.

“You get nervous, you know. You don’t want to cause more damage,” explained Will Clark, who signed up for a CPR class so that he could learn the life-saving skills.

Nemeth said some people may also be afraid of being accused of inappropriate touching, or be sued if the patient is injured while they are performing CPR.

Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law protects people performing CPR from getting sued, as long as their acting in good faith and attempting to save someone’s life.

Nemeth uses female mannequins during her training courses to help give her students a more realistic approach.

She encourages her students to jump right in, call 911 in an emergency, and perform the CPR and use a defibrillator if it’s available

“Don’t hesitate, act fast,” she said. “If a female is down and she’s not responsive, you’re going to attempt to save her life and give her chest compressions. Don’t overthink it.”