Bioethics Blogs

A Right to Be Shocked?

Back in the 18th century, concerned citizens were experimenting with ways to bring back the dead. But they didn’t make a lot of progress. Indeed, the 19th century was not a particularly productive one for the science of resuscitation, and the first part of the 20th century wasn’t much better.

Fortunately, though, there were other important advances during that period, including many new discoveries and inventions. There was the airplane, of course (1903), and the ballpoint pen (1935), and let’s not forget the machine that makes sliced bread (1927), as well as the first Rock & Roll song (1951). That, by the way, is widely believed to be “Rocket 88”, by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, which beats the heck out of Schubert or Chopin, if you ask me.

But if you were a cardiac arrest victim who was “apparently dead” in 1951, your chances of survival probably weren’t much better than they would have been 100 years before. On the bright side, if you were lucky enough rejoin the living in 1951, you’d be able to wake up to the world’s first Rock and Roll song.

Things Have Changed

In the last 50 years, things have changed. A lot. Now resuscitation is no longer the province of medical professionals. Anyone can resuscitate anyone. Moreover, it’s a revolution that we’re all part of, whether we know it or not. If you have two arms, and a sense of rhythm, you can perform CPR.

That’s not such a bad thing. Certainly the science of resuscitation has improved, and CPR does save lives. So encouraging bystanders to try their hand at bringing back the dead seems reasonable.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.