I'm not a doctor, and the guy who tried to revive Michael Jackson is. But it's hard to avoid having questions about how Dr. Conrad Murray went about administering CPR to the pop star.
Why did he perform the chest compressions while Jackson was still in bed rather than move him to a firm surface? On a bed, the victim is simply pressed deeper into the mattress. According to reports, Murray tried to overcome this by bracing Jackson's back with one hand, which left the doctor only one hand to do compressions. Usually, the rescuer uses two hands, interlocked, pressing down with the heel of the lower hand. It's hard work to get a compression deep enough.
Murray also, according to his lawyers, performed the technique for 25 minutes or so before having an ambulance called. But according to the CPR classes I've taken, the procedure seldom revives a patient; it's more a technique to keep blood flowing until an ambulance arrives. Rescuers also generally aren't supposed to try to do CPR for such a long period even if an ambulance isn't immediately forthcoming. They're supposed to show someone else how to do it as they do it, and have that person spell them for awhile. It's exhausting to give CPR properly, and studies show that rescuers, without noticing, start to let up on the speed or depth of the compressions after a few minutes.
It's early for anyone to be passing judgment on how things were handled in Jackson's particular situation, but it would be helpful to have some top experts come forward to comment on how people should handle CPR in an emergency. Given the phenomenal interest and concern in this case, doctors and public-health officials have been presented with a teachable moment that might be used to save other lives.
Photo: A July 2006 photo of Dr. Conrad Murray. Credit: AP Photo / Houston Chronicle