A defibrillator is a critical life-saving device. According to the American Heart Association, approximately a quarter of a million Americans die from heart attacks annually, and many of these patients can be saved if proper emergency care is given. In 1997, state legislatures, beginning with Florida, began promulgating laws on the use of defibrillators. These rules vary from one state to another; however, in each case, the laws were designed to ensure the defibrillator could be used by any person who has the intention of saving a life. As a result, laws encourage training, set standards for where such devices must be located, exempt helpers from liability based on the "Good Samaritan" principle, and designate a state agency to establish more detailed requirements for training and registration.
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All states give a physician the automatic right to operate a defibrillator. However, states also permit non-medical professionals to operate a defibrillator in lifesaving situations as well. In most states, a person who has obtained a certificate in the field of Adult Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) from a nationally recognised organisation such as the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Red Cross, or any program offering an approved defibrillator curriculum can also operate a defibrillator.
Laws on Certification
Certificate courses must teach rescue CPR, rescue breathing, foreign body airway obstruction, activating the EMS system and appropriate recovery positions, in addition to the use of the defibrillator. Knowing CPR techniques and the basics of defibrillator use can enable certified individuals to recognise the symptoms and understand the type of care needed. To locate a certificate course, you can call (877) AHA-4 CPR or visit http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3012360.>
Trained personnel are protected from liability under Good Samaritan Laws. In other words, if a person uses a defibrillator in an attempt to save a patient who is having a heart attack, that person cannot be sued by the patient or his family members as long as that person used the defibrillator according to standards set by federally stipulated manufacturing guidelines. Most defibrillators, especially new AEDs (automatic defibrillators), carry instructions that guide a person in their use. The rescuer should follow the instructions to ensure the defibrillator is used properly, thus protecting the rescuer from liability.
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