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Black Heart Attack Victims Less Likely to Get Help from a Good Samaritan

Tim Boyer's picture

The story of the Good Samaritan is a parable told by Jesus to a Jewish lawmaker who wanted to know what he had to do in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus replied by asking the lawmaker to recite the law of Moses, which includes that not only must a man love God with all of his heart, but that he must also love his neighbor as he loves himself.

The lawmaker not satisfied with the answer, then asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus then tells the parable of how a Jewish man was robbed and beaten by bandits and left for dead on the roadside. Subsequently, a priest passed by followed later by a Levite, both of whom refused to stop to help the dying Jew. It was not until a Samaritan passing by took pity on the Jew and stopped to render aid by tending to his wounds and taking him in at an inn until he had recovered.

Jesus’s point to the lawmaker was that your fellow man in need is your neighbor and that we should all follow the example set by the Good Samaritan.

Fast forward now about two thousand years and according to recent research findings, there appears to be a racial disparity involving potential Good Samaritans.

In a recent presentation given by a research team from the Perelman School of Medicine at UPenn, a study looking at out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases found that black patient’s hearts were significantly less likely to have restarted before arriving at a hospital than white patient’s hearts flowing cardiac arrest.

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"Cardiac arrest is a time-sensitive illness that requires immediate action to keep blood flowing to the brain—every minute without CPR and the application of shocks from an automated external defibrillator robs patients of a chance to fully recover," said senior author Roger Band, MD, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine. "Our findings show troubling racial disparities in the use of these lifesaving measures, and they point to the need to do more to ensure that every patient has the best chance of surviving."

According to the authors of the study, not only are Blacks (14.7%) less likely to have their hearts start beating again spontaneously before reaching the hospital (with the help of medics and bystanders) than Whites (17.1%), but the problem appears to be compounded by the fact that black heart attack victims are significantly less likely to receive immediate action in the form of CPR and automatic external defibrillation by a bystander.

Data gleaned from 4,909 adult out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases that occurred between January 2008 and February 2012 in the city of Philadelphia made available from the Philadelphia Fire Department showed that white patients receive CPR 7.5% of the time and automated external defibrillation (AED) 34% of the time by bystanders, as opposed to Blacks who receive CPR and AED 5.6% and 27% respectively by bystanders.

While the reasons for the racial disparity remain undetermined regarding bystanders choosing not to assume the role of a Good Samaritan, the researchers do note that their results and results from a separate study show that additional life-saving public education (CPR) and equipment (AED’s) are needed.The separate study showed that individuals who suffer a heart attack between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. are also less likely to receive bystander CPR and prompt transport to a hospital.

"It is imperative for the public to know that these two interventions that have the greatest impact on survival, and they can be performed by anyone. If CPR and AEDs were employed for every cardiac arrest, hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved annually, in the U.S. alone," Band says. "Our studies reiterate the fact that use of these basic lifesaving tools is far too low across all patient populations, and even small increases in their use would translate into very significant increases in survival."

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Reference: University of Pennsylvania news release