Defibrillators in public places can prevent heart attack deaths

gp-defibulatorSudden heart attacks kill as many as 400,000 people a year in the U.S. Yet many of these deaths could be prevented with automated external defibrillators, or AEDs.

AEDs are portable electronic devices that can treat a person who is in sudden cardiac arrest due to arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. An AED delivers an electric jolt that allows the heart to reestablish its rhythm, potentially saving the victim’s life.

AEDs usually cost less than $1,000, they’re small and portable, and they’re easy for anyone to use with simple training. Because they’re so valuable, all 50 states now have regulations requiring them to be available in certain public places. Some states require all physical fitness facilities to have at least one AED. Others require them at all school-sponsored events, and some even require them in dentists’ offices.

In fact, it’s just common sense for defibrillators to be available anywhere that large numbers of people regularly congregate – such as concert halls, airports, schools and colleges, convention centers, sports stadiums, government buildings, amusement parks, shopping malls, and factories and office buildings.

It makes so much sense that many courts are now deciding that there’s a legal responsibility to have an AED on hand whenever the cost is relatively negligible compared to the likelihood of saving a life.

One of the first of these cases happened several years ago, when the family of a student sued the University of Pittsburgh after their daughter suffered brain damage from a cardiac arrest. The campus police had no AED on hand when she suffered arrhythmia and collapsed in class, despite the fact that the university had required all police to carry them. The university chose to settle the case with the family rather than go to court and let a jury hear what happened.

Successful lawsuits for not having an AED available have now been brought against many organizations, including the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans and the Busch Gardens theme park in Tampa, Florida.

Lawsuits such as these help the grieving families who have lost loved ones, but they also serve to get the word out to other institutions in society about the importance of making this medical equipment available, thus preventing injuries and saving lives.