Share this story

PODCAST: Palliative expert Sunita Puri explores the ‘hidden harms’ of CPR

In a new Voices of UMass Chan episode, palliative care expert Sunita Puri, MD, associate professor of medicine, delves into the complexities surrounding cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. Drawing from her extensive experience in the field of palliative care, Dr. Puri sheds light on the hidden harms of CPR and challenges prevailing beliefs. She also discusses the importance of using different and more thoughtful language when talking with patients and families about decision making at the end of life.

The episode begins with Puri reading from her recent article in The New Yorker, ‘The Hidden Harms of CPR,’ and emphasizes that while CPR is often associated with medical heroism, its success rate is alarmingly low. 

“I think what people miss is that the statistics don’t lie around the success of CPR,” Puri said. “The force of compressions can shatter ribs and breast bones, puncture lungs, bruise the heart, and cause major blood vessels to rupture. Repeated electrical shock can burn flesh. Even if a procedure restores a heartbeat, brain damage—whether mild memory loss or a vegetative state—occurs in 40 percent of hospitalized patients.”

Throughout the podcast, she stresses the importance of maintaining CPR training for emergencies occurring outside of a hospital setting. However, she also highlights the need for a nuanced approach within a hospital, considering the patient’s specific circumstances and the likelihood of CPR effectively restoring their quality of life.

Read her recent article in The New Yorker for additional insights into the complexities of CPR in palliative care.

Learn about Puri’s book, “That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour.”:

Listen to the full Voices of UMass Chan podcast here: Subscribe through SoundCloud, Apple Podcast, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts.