While watching a YouTube video called How to Perform CPR, I was struck by the expression used by the instructor, “give one rescue breath” (1.52) and “to perform a rescue breath” (2.00).
“Rescue breath” is a term with which I am most unfamiliar. As a child growing up in London during the 1970s I remember hearing about the kiss of life and as a teenager, learning the more formal and medically accurate phrase, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
Wikipedia tells me that this life-saving technique is also known as expired air resuscitation (EAR), expired air ventilation (EAV), rescue breathing, and colloquially, the kiss of life. Other names I found are: mouth-to-mouth breathing, mouth-to-mouth ventilation, mouth-to-mouth respiration, and the mystical breath of life.
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
Apparently, this practice became medical protocol as late as 1950
In 1950 AD, the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation method was introduced. A number of organisations started a promotional effort to raise awareness in the USA public of this procedure that had been advocated within the United States army during World War II
Facts, Legends and Myths on the Evolution of Resuscitation
It appears the method used today was perfected in the US but what of its terminology?
The technique was documented for the first time in 1744, a Scottish surgeon named William Tossach (Tossack), published a paper recounting how he saved a miner's life. In 1732, he successfully performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a man whose body gave no signs of life, apparently asphyxiated by smoke inhalation.
I applied my mouth close to his, and exhaled as strong as I could: but having neglected to close his nostrils all the air came out of them. Wherefore taking hold of them with one hand, and holding my other on his breast, I blew again my breath as strong as I could, raising his chest fully with it; and immediately I felt six or seven quick beats of the heart
Yet by 1790, many physicians agreed that it did more harm than good
To blow one's own breath into the lungs of another is an absurd and pernicious practice. Benjamin Waterhouse
“the method practiced by the vulgar to restore newborn children” William Hunter
Thus the Royal Humane Society was persuaded to advocate in favour of bellows ventilation, which consisted of either introducing the instrument into a nostril while simultaneously closing the other nostril and mouth or by blowing the tobacco smoke directly into the rectum of the unfortunate victim.
As far as I could gather, the life-saving method first described by Tossach had no official name.
In fact, none of the dictionaries I consulted shed any light; Merriam-Webster, English Oxford Dictionaries, Cambridge Dictionary, Wiktionary, and The Free Dictionary do not have any dates for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Only, weirdly enough, the EOD has some historical detail on rescue breathing, it says the term was first used in the 1950s.
It's been brought to my attention, by @user070221, that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was first recorded in 1960–65. However, the first instance I found–via Google Books–is dated 1958, which is still far later than I had anticipated, in The Journal of the Maine Medical Association
Briefly the steps in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in infants are: […]
- Place your mouth over the child’s mouth and nose, making a relatively leakproof seal, and breathe into the child with a smooth, steady action until you observe the chest rise.
The same document mentions that the term is also known as the “Biblical method”
I would like to know more about the origin of the phrase “mouth-to-mouth resuscitation” (or its earlier variant mouth-to-mouth breathing), and whether the expression “rescue breathing” is older.
Was the expression mouth-to-mouth distasteful (no pun intended) or considered indecent for anglophone speakers? Is the term rescue breathing universally known? Which of the terms is more popular, and in which country?