Bioethics Blogs

Revisiting CPR Survival Rates Depicted on Popular TV Shows

Jaclyn Portanova and colleagues at the USC Davis School of Gerontology have just published  ”It Isn’t Like This on TV: Revisiting CPR Survival Rates Depicted on Popular TV Shows” in Resuscitation.  Compared to Diem & Lantos’ similar 1996 study, accuracy rates of television CPR depictions appear to not be improving. 

The authors found that Grey’s Anatomy and House portrayed CPR as more effective than actual rates. Overall, the shows portrayed an immediate survival rate nearly twice that of actual survival rates. Inaccurate TV portrayal of CPR survival rates may misinform viewers and influence care decisions made during serious illness and at end of life.


“Public perceptions of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be influenced by the media. Nearly two decades ago, a study found that the rates of survival following CPR were far higher in popular TV shows than actual rates.”


“In recent years, major strides toward enhanced education and communication around life sustaining interventions have been made. This study aimed to reassess the accuracy of CPR portrayed by popular medical TV shows.”


“Three trained research assistants independently coded two leading medical dramas airing between 2010 and 2011, Grey’s Anatomy and House. CPR was depicted 46 times in the 91 episodes, with a survival rate of 69.6%. Among those immediately surviving following CPR, the majority (71.9%) survived to hospital discharge and 15.6% died before discharge. Advance directive discussions only occurred for two patients, and preferences regarding code status (8.7%), intubation (6.5%) and feeding (4.3%) rarely occurred.”


Here is one nice counterexample:


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