Dr. Peter Safar, the internationally renowned physician-researcher often called “the Father of CPR,” died of cancer Sunday evening at his Mt. Lebanon home. He was 79.
Dr. Peter Safar: A life devoted to cheating death, March 31, 2002
A distinguished professor of resuscitation medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Dr. Safar was the driving force behind both cardiopulmonary resuscitation and critical care medicine. He developed this country’s first intensive care unit and paramedic ambulance service, and was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in medicine.
His latest research passion was to make a reality of rescuing the brain as well as the heart and lungs from potentially fatal damage in what he dubbed cardiopulmonary-cerebral resuscitation, or CPCR.
The motivation for that work came out of the 1966 death of his 11-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who lapsed into a coma after a severe asthma attack. The resuscitation expert could revive his daughter’s heart and lungs, but not her brain.
As part of that focus, Dr. Safar worked on what he called “suspended animation for delayed resuscitation,” in which body cooling techniques are employed to buy time for life-saving medical and surgical interventions.
He began developing that idea almost a decade ago with Dr. Lyn Yaffe, then in charge of combat casualty care research for the U.S. Navy. The projects are now sponsored by the U.S. Army. Many years of promising laboratory and animal experiments at the Safar Center and other research centers have paved the way for initial human trials of therapeutic hypothermia for traumatic shock.