Instead, he says, we should be doing more studies: for example, comparing CPR teaching methods with cardiac arrest survival rates in major cities in the United States to understand how and when the technique is most effective.
In some cities that have less CPR training, the survival rate is indeed low, Sayre says. But in other metropolitan areas with strong training programs and quick EMS response times, half or more victims survive.
Sayre suggests teaching CPR in schools nationwide starting in seventh grade, as well as increasing access to automated external defibrillators, portable machines that shock the heart to get it to "reboot." Using an AED, according to Sayre, increases the probability of survival to 80 percent.
Promising research continues for substitutes to CPR, but "there are no reasonable alternatives" yet, Newman said. For now, emergency care providers have to use what they know.
That doesn't mean Newman is happy with that reality. He remembers when he started as an EMT: "I was led to believe that for those who experienced cardiac arrest, if you put your heart into reviving them, they would come back."