This can all seem very abstract to a healthy middle-aged person with no history of heart problems. But as people age, and increasingly cope with multiple diseases and frailty, the issue grows more urgent and more complex. The blunt question: Should a frail, elderly person receive CPR?
In his 33 years as an emergency room doctor — mostly in hospitals in Maryland and now at Christian Hospital in St. Louis — Dr. David Davis estimates he has resuscitated 600 people. CPR, he likes to point out, was developed during the Korean War to help wounded soldiers — otherwise healthy young men — stay alive until they reached field hospitals. Doing chest compressions on fragile old people disturbs him.
“It is violent,” Dr. Davis told me in an interview. “If you don’t do it hard enough, you can’t move any blood.” But if you do thrust hard enough, “you’re going to break the ribs and maybe the sternum.”
More on CPR for the Elderly - NYTimes.com