March 19, 2021 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Dr. Megan Shore has first hand experience in being an unexpected witness to someone experiencing cardiac arrest. Dr. Shore’s interest in bystanderism began after her husband, Dr. Scott Kline of St. Jerome’s University, suffered a heart attack that led to cardiac arrest after a 50 km bike ride in June 2018. During that time, one of their neighbours, Dr. Anisa Mnyusiwalla, a physician, arrived and performed CPR until EMS arrived. 

“I knew I was beyond fortunate. I knew I needed to use the experience to help others navigate this traumatic experience and help build up community support for families who go through this,” says Dr.  Shore.

Her experience has led to a study that has received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Engagement Grant, COVID-19 Special Initiative, in the amount of $25,000. Dr. Shore is the Principal Investigator on a project “Collateral Impact of COVID-19 on Bystanderism: How does a Pandemic Change People’s Willingness to Help?” At King’s, she is also an Associate Professor in the Social Justice and Peace Studies program.

An out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OCHA) is an electrical malfunction that stops the heart from beating. A person who experiences an OHCA will collapse and be unresponsive, and within five minutes brain damage and death will follow if circulation is not restored. An OHCA occurs every 14 minutes in Canada, usually in a public place like a mall, a gym, a nightclub, at home or on the street. Only 6% of people who have an OHCA survive because a “bystander” steps to perform life-saving resuscitation (CPR) until the emergency services arrive. This doubles the chances for survival, however only 35% of people who witness an OCHA will step in.

“We want to see what perceptions regarding bystander intervention are during, and after, a global pandemic. Our intention is to better understand how people think about their response to an emergency during, and following, a global pandemic situation,” says Dr. Shore.

The study addresses how to balance the need for life-saving resuscitation     by a bystander during a public emergency with physical distance guidelines in  place to stop transmission of COVID-19 and the fear of transmission of COVID-19. The two guiding research questions are: a) What collateral impact does COVID-19 pose to encouraging bystanderism, and b) what ethical implications does COVID-19 pose for prosocial behaviour?

In addition to Dr. Shore, the team will also include:

  • Dr. Katie Dainty (co-lead) - the Research Chair in Patient-Centred Outcomes at North York General Hospital, an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) and an Associate Member of the School of Graduate Studies at University of Toronto.
  • Dr. Scott Kline – a Christian Social Ethics, faculty member of St. Jerome's University, and, starting in August 2021, the first Visiting Scholar in Ethics for St. Mark’s College at the University of British Columbia and Providence Health Care.
  • Dr. Steve Brooks - a Clinician-Scientist and Emergency Physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Queen’s University and the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of the Keenan Research Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. 

The project is in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC), which has committed vast amounts of programmatic and research funding to increase the role of the bystander in OHCAs, particularly in terms of augmented dispatcher-assisted CPR (DACPR) and CPR education programs for laypersons across the country. However, with COVID-19, the important gains that have been made in  increased bystander intervention in an OHCA are now at significant risk of plummeting with the fears of the transmission of COVID-19. The goal is to see if CPR training of bystanders needs to change to address COVID and post-COVID pandemic fear.