It seems counterintuitive: allowing family members of deathly ill patients to watch while doctors try to restart the patients' hearts. Wouldn't it be traumatic for the family to see? Couldn't it be distracting for the doctors? But a new study, the largest rigorous trial on this issue to date, has found that family members who observed resuscitation efforts were significantly less likely to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression than family members who did not. The results, published online on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, applied regardless of whether the patient survived; most did not, since frequently patients in such dire condition cannot be saved. The study, which involved 570 people in France whose family members were treated by emergency medical teams at home, also found that the presence of relatives did not affect the results of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, did not increase stress on physicians or other members of the medical teams, and did not result in legal claims. (One family member who had observed CPR even sent a thank-you note.)
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