Popular TV Shows Depict Overly Optimistic CPR Success

Jaclyn Portanova, Ph.D School of Gerontology University of Southern California DavisMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jaclyn Portanova, Ph.D student
School of Gerontology
University of Southern California Davis

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Response: Over the past two decades, we have made a lot of progress in educating the public about the need to engage in advance care planning and make health care decisions, such as whether or not to receive CPR in a medical crisis. The media plays a major role in shaping the way people think about life-saving measures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In fact, a study published in 1996 showed that popular medical shows portrayed CPR as having a much higher rate of success than actual rates. We sought to determine if popular media has improved in the accuracy of their depiction of CPR survival rates.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Response: Nearly 70% of TV show patients who received CPR survived the initial incident. This success rate is twice as high as actual rates. Even more striking, survival rate to hospital discharge following receipt of CPR was four times higher in popular medical television shows than actual rates. Advance care planning discussions between physicians and patients were rarely portrayed, but when they did occur patient preferences were honored.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Given that popular television shows depict overly optimistic CPR success rates and 42% of older adults get most of their health knowledge from watching television, clinicians should be aware that patients may have an inaccurate perception of CPR success rates. Enhanced communication between clinicians and patients is needed in order to dispel myths about life-saving measures and give patients a realistic assessment of their health status. It is important for patients to have the opportunity to ask important questions about their individual situation and possible future care options to ensure that patients can make informed decisions about their care preferences.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research is needed to investigate the effect of viewing popular media on health care decision making. Additionally, more focus is needed on mechanisms to enhance patient education and communication around advance care planning.


Jaclyn Portanova, Irvine Krystle, Yi Jae Yoon, Susan Enguidanos. It isn’t like this on TV: Revisiting CPR survival rates depicted on popular TV shows. Resuscitation, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2015.08.002

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MedicalResearch.com Interview with:, & Jaclyn Portanova, Ph.D (2015). Popular TV Shows Depict Overly Optimistic CPR Success 

Last Updated on August 31, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD