They hang innocuously on the walls of the locations that we frequent. We often do not even notice them, or if we do, we often do not even know what they are. Most of us would not even know how to use them even if we did notice them. Yet, they are one of the most important life saving items that businesses and establishments can have to protect consumers.
We are talking about automated external defibrillators.
Study Shows Long-Term Benefits When Defibrillators Used
A recent study has revealed that using a defibrillator can not only save the lives of those who need them, but in fact can have positive effects that can last up to a year after an incident. In the long term, events such as brain damage or even death are reduced when someone is treated with a defibrillator.
Over 350,000 people yearly suffer cardiac events in public places. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that people who suffer these cardiac events outside of a hospital have only an 8-12% chance of survival.
However, of those who survive, the risk of death from any cause is 30% lower one year after the cardiac event, the risk of brain damage is 38% lower, and there is a total 33% reduction in the risk of all those events combined, when a defibrillator is immediately used on the victim. The study found the same benefits when CPR was performed on the patient.
Although the immediate benefits of using a defibrillator have always been known, this is the first time that a study has shown that defibrillator usage can have beneficial effects beyond the immediate survival of the event.
When and How They Work
Defibrillators are particularly useful when a victim goes into cardiac arrest, which is when the heart stops beating, as opposed to a heart attack, when blockage stops blood from flowing. This is a significant difference because while heart attacks often plague those who are older or who are suffering from specific medical conditions, a cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any age.
Just recently in California, a 14-year-old boy was saved after suffering cardiac arrest, simply because school staff had access to, and training in, the usage of a defibrillator. The boy had a latent disease which his family was not previously aware of.
A defibrillator shocks or jolts the heart, and can correct an irregular heartbeat, or get a still heart moving again. The defibrillator will immediately read a victim’s heartbeat and determine if the rhythm is irregular. Some estimates have them as being 90% effective at identifying when a heartbeat is irregular.
If so, the user needs only to press a button to initiate a shock. Most defibrillators have audible commands which will guide the user on how to use it. This ease of use combined with the portability of a defibrillator make it an idea life saving device because people of all ages and strengths and without any medical training can effectively use it.
Some Do Not Work
Although the installation of defibrillators is starting to become more common in schools and businesses and other public establishments, businesses have an obligation to do more than just install them for show. Businesses often will have an obligation to have staff who are trained to use them, and to make sure they are in working order.
The latter is of particular concern, as many businesses may not know how to maintain defibrillators, or may not take steps to make sure they are even working. A recent study by a cardiologist showed that up to 20% of defibrillators tested in local businesses did not work. Many had dead batteries, or other internal materials that had expired or needed replacing.
Defibrillators are unfortunately treated like any other piece of equipment on the open market. They are sold by different companies, which may provide different levels of training or support to the businesses that buy them. Just like a TV manufacturer can sell you a TV and leave you on your own to figure it out, so can a defibrillator manufacturer.
Few Laws Regulate Defibrillators
There are no laws that require any standards for defibrillator maintenance or upkeep, and no government agencies that will inspect them the way, for example, elevators or fire sprinkler systems may be regularly inspected. There is not even a national registry of the location of defibrillators.
Like many legal areas, just because there are no laws requiring them does not mean there is no legal protection for victims. In many cases, in areas where large numbers of people may convene, or where there is a population that may be prone to cardiac events, businesses may be negligent if they fail to provide working defibrillators and trained personnel. The reasonable cost of a defibrillator—even the best ones often cost less than $5,000—makes it even more unreasonable for a business to fail to have one on premises.
With defibrillators becoming so commonplace, and knowledge of their benefits so widespread, it is becoming more difficult for businesses to explain why they do not have working defibrillators and properly trained staff. This includes requiring them in places like malls, concert arenas, movie theaters, sporting events, schools, or nursing or elder care homes.
Businesses and public establishments have a broader obligation to protect you and help you than you may think. Contact Brill & Rinaldi today about a free consultation to discuss your case no matter how you are injured.