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Saving lives: A historical and ethnographic study of resuscitation techniques

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Title: Saving lives: A historical and ethnographic study of resuscitation techniques
Author(s): Timmermans, Stefan Maria
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Star, Susan Leigh
Department / Program: Sociology
Discipline: Sociology
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Sociology, Theory and Methods Health Sciences, Public Health History of Science
Abstract: Resuscitation techniques are heralded as life-saving but they rarely fulfill this promise: the survival ratio for out-of-hospital resuscitative efforts rarely rises above 10 percent. I investigate this paradox of resuscitation technology by following the historical development of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and by analyzing how emergency personnel use the technique on a routine basis. The central question through my dissertation is: how does a resuscitation technique receive its shape and how does it shape in turn the world in which it is used?In the historical part, the focus of my analysis is on how CPR develops from a variety of different research and user trajectories and is crystallized in an emergency infrastructure. Since antiquity different cultures employed a variety of methods to revive drowning victims, stillborns, and the apparently dead. These methods were first centralized in the English eighteenth century Royal Humane Society. The society approved, tested, and promoted a succession of methods until the Second World War. At that time the center of resuscitation research shifted to the U.S. I pay special attention at the discovery of closed-chest cardiac massage in the Johns Hopkins laboratories and the crystallization of this technique in the emergency medical system.In the ethnographic section, I translate the paradox of resuscitation technology into lived experience. I will look at how emergency medical personnel use the life saving techniques on a routine basis. I investigate how staff members reach decisions in a resuscitative effort, how the technology redefines the lives of patients enrolled in it, and how emergency medical staff cope with the technology and its outcomes. I point to ways in which a resuscitative effort can still be a meaningful event for relatives and friends, patients, and staff members, even when the outcome is not as expected and predicted by the resuscitation script. In the discussion, I suggest some potential improvements in the current resuscitative system. I end the dissertation with a formal theory of multiple trajectories.
Issue Date: 1995
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/19842
Rights Information: Copyright 1995 Timmermans, Stefan Maria
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog: AAI9543747
OCLC Identifier: (UMI)AAI9543747
 

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