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Next week’s Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 2 – 6) sees the official launch of a new short film aiming to highlight how everyone in the latter stages of living has a choice in whether they receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in a future medical emergency - and how they should speak with their family and health care professional to make their wishes known.

The film is narrated by well-known end of life clinical lead and family doctor, Dr Lindsey Crockett, who speaks with two local patients receiving end of life care, neither of whom wish to receive CPR, and who openly discuss their reasoning and how they have put in place plans to ensure their wishes are met.

Dr Crockett also speaks with a volunteer at the Compassionate Companions project, which supports those with life-limiting conditions to live well and ensure their end of life wishes are met.

CPR is when someone gives chest compressions to a person in cardiac arrest (when the heart stops pumping blood around the body), yet only 7 – 8% of CPR interventions are successful when a cardiac arrest takes place outside of a hospital, but it’s important to understand that the potential impact of CPR very much depends of the health of the recipient.

In the film Dr Crockett explains how there are two scenarios for a heart stopping, one in overall healthy people where the heart can suddenly stop due to a disturbance of its rhythm or injury – in which case CPR is far more likely to be successful. 

The second scenario is when the heart is one of last organs in the body to stop working, when age or life limiting conditions such as cancer, have adversely affected the other organs such as kidneys, liver and stomach – this is when having CPR is less likely to be effective in saving their life and giving them an ongoing good quality of life.

Dr Crockett, who works as a GP in the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System area, says: “As part of our work to give people the most accurate information on end-of-life care, it’s important to understand that CPR is an effective tool mostly when people are generally overall healthy and when their heart stopping is due to sudden rhythmic change or injury.

“When someone is already ill or elderly, CPR is much less effective in getting the heart pumping again.

“That’s not to say CPR shouldn’t be performed when someone is elderly or receiving end of life care, but it’s important people know this is the case and are fully informed in making the decision that is best for them. Some people make the reasoned decision that they do not want to risk a CPR intervention and end up with a very much reduced quality of life, whilst others are very much in favour of receiving the intervention.

“There is no right or wrong answer and I would encourage people to watch the film and discuss their wishes and concerns with their family and health care professionals.

“If they live in the East Suffolk area there is a very supportive project called Compassionate Companions, which since its launch last year has successfully supported local people who are at the end of life. The project has built a very strong community network providing companionship and support, not just to those individuals at the end of their life, but also to their family members and carers.”

You can watch the new CPR film HERE

You can read more about Compassionate Companions HERE