None of this, however, applies to the sudden—and common—deaths caused by stroke or heart disease. In his award-winning book Sudden Death and the Myth of CPR, sociologist Stefan Timmermans argues that CPR and associated resuscitation techniques have become part of American medical culture because they appear to offer a “good death” in these circumstances. Innumerable television dramas portray heroic doctors who save apparently dead patients through CPR, and millions of dollars have been spent in teaching the general public to perform CPR and outfitting community emergency response teams and hospital emer- gency rooms with resuscitation equipment. Yet CPR almost never succeeds except when healthy individuals drown or are struck by lightning. The typical person who receives CPR has at best a 1% to 3% chance—and probably much less—of surviving, at an estimated cost of $500,000 per survivor. Moreover, “survival” may be brief and may be accompanied by severe neurological damage. As a result, surveys suggest, almost no doctors want CPR per- formed on them if their hearts should stop.
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Stroke or Heart Disease