News » “Shock and Law”

“Shock and Law”

GW Physicians Advocate for Nation-wide Liability Protections and Regulations for use of Automated External Defibrillation Devices

WASHINGTON (Sept. 21, 2011) — Numerous studies and clinical trials have demonstrated that the use of Automated External Defibrillation devices (AEDs) can dramatically increase the survival rate of someone who suffers “sudden cardiac arrest,” (SCA), especially in high-density public places, such as shopping malls, hotels, sports arenas, and airports. SCA kills more than 300,000 people a year in the U.S. The survival rate for ventricular fibrillation–related SCA is time-dependent. Every minute in delay until an AED is applied to the patient’s heart, results in a 7 percent to 10 percent decline in survival rates.

Yet, with the complex array of state laws that govern the use of AEDs, a “Good Samaritan” may not be free to restart the patient’s heart with a nearby AED until emergency medical services can arrive on the scene, without fear of liability.

This week, three leading cardiologists from The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences argued for a nation-wide solution to this dilemma in an article published by the American Heart Association’s leading journal, Circulation.

In the article, titled “Shock and Law,” the cardiologists, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Dr. Allen Solomon, and Dr. Richard J. Katz, describe “how the current legislative mélange of state AED provisions impedes the deployment of a simple, irreplaceable, decades-proven therapy” for people who have suffered life-threatening SCA.

The authors note, that AEDs are designed for effective and expeditious use by individuals with no prior medical experience. As the name implies, these devices are automated, feature audio prompts, and require little more than the placement of two adhesive patches on an exposed chest. Studies have shown that even sixth-grade children can operate an AED, they are safe, and can be used by untrained bystanders without a risk of hurting victims.

“We are concerned that the cumbersome and disparate regulations regarding AEDs put up barriers that prevent industries, such as the retail, the hotel and hospitality industries, from pursuing life-saving AED programs,” said Dr. Reiner, lead author on the study, professor of Medicine and director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories at the GW Hospital. “There must be Federal regulations and protections to encourage wider adoption of AED programs.”

The physicians argue that Congress should pass legislation that would, first, facilitate the placement of AEDs in public places across the United States and assuage concerns regarding liability risk. Second, the legislation must provide for “a single, unambiguous, nationwide set of regulations and liability protections … Congress can pass a preemption law effectively unifying the disparate state provisions regulating AED use and provider/responder liability risk.”

To achieve this goal, the authors also urged Congress to include in the legislation a pre-emptive provision that standardizes registration, training, supervision and liability protections for AED programs and responders nationwide by removing the requirements for AED registration and training; authorizing any person to use an AED regardless of training status; and implementing liability protection for all providers, trainers, and health care professionals involved with AED programs.

Read the entire article at