Presence of patients’ families during resuscitation has emerged as an important practice issue, sparking considerable controversy worldwide. Early advocates of allowing patients’ families to be present during resuscitation faced more resistance than did current advocates because the former had little or no scientific research results to support their ideas. In the past 15 years, a number of quantitative studies, especially descriptive surveys, have been conducted. Qualitative researchers have also explored the lived experience of family members present during resuscitation and less commonly the perspectives of patients and healthcare providers. In this review of the literature, the current state of the science is critically reviewed and the ethical-theoretical perspectives of respective researchers and staff participants in the reviewed studies are discussed. Surveys were used to collect data in most studies to date. Limitations of these designs include small convenience samples, low response rates, use of retrospective surveys and the associated potential selection bias, and lack of consistency in survey instruments, factors that make comparison of findings between studies difficult. Recommendations to address the gaps in the current state of knowledge about family members’ presence during resuscitation are discussed. Experimental and qualitative methods are especially needed to investigate the effect of family presence during resuscitation on patients, families, nurses and physicians, and other multidisciplinary staff members.

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