AEDs and the Good Samaritan Law

The American Heart Association states that at least 20,000 lives could be saved annually by the prompt use of AEDs.  Key to survival is timely initiation of a “chain of survival”, that includes the following four steps: of: 1) early access to care, 2) early CPR, 3) early defibrillation, and 4) early advanced care. All fifty states have enacted laws or adopted regulations regarding AEDs for specific types of facilities.  It’s important to note that OSHA does not regulate AED use, however, OSHA does require employers to provide medical and first aid personnel and supplies commensurate with the hazards of the workplace.

Employees may be reluctant to try and save a coworker’s or bystander’s life in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest emergency due to the fear of being sued. Understanding their rights to act, or not to act, is critical before they are faced with an emergency situation. Good Samaritan laws were developed to encourage people to help others in emergency situations and are designed to protect any person acting in “good faith” in an emergency.

All fifty states have some type of Good Samaritan laws in place and they are each interpreted differently. It is recommended to seek legal counsel to verify your local requirements for mandatory placement of AEDs and state interpretations of the Good Samaritan law. Good Samaritan laws generally provide basic legal protection for those who assist a person who is injured or in danger and protect the “Good Samaritan” from liability if unintended consequences result from their assistance.

Employees who are trained to use an AED and who in good faith use an AED or participates in other rescue or first aid care in emergencies, at the scene or in transit to a medical facility or hospital, will not be liable for any civil damages unless there was intent to harm the victim. In most states, any employer who acquires and maintains an AED for use must ensure that expected AED users receive training, maintain and test the AED according to the manufacturer’s operational guidelines, provide instruction requiring the user of the AED to utilize available means to immediately contact and activate the emergency medical services system, and assure that any appropriate information is made available to emergency medical services personnel or other health care providers as requested.

Any person who in good faith and prudency renders emergency care, first aid or rescue at the scene of an emergency or moves the person to a hospital or medical facility will not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions in rendering the care. The term “good faith” in this context includes a reasonable opinion that the immediacy of the situation is such that the use of an AED or performing first-aid services should not be postponed until emergency medical services personnel arrive or the person is hospitalized.

Under the Good Samaritan law, a person will be held liable if the following conditions are found true: if acts or omissions were intentionally designed to harm, if any grossly negligent acts or omissions result in harm to the individual receiving the AED treatment, or if an AED responder obstructs or interferes with care being given by EMS or health care providers.

The chart below summarizes Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia AED laws.

 

Physician oversight required?

Operator training required?

AED Unit registration required?

Pennsylvania

No

Yes

No

Maryland

Yes

Yes

Yes

Virginia

Yes

Yes

No

Providing AEDs and training employees on how to use them are essential elements in reducing sudden cardiac arrests. AEDs are becoming simpler to use and causing harm while using an AED is diminished by the AED itself. The current models are difficult to misuse and are usually voice guided, offering step-by-step directions.

Sources:

http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/laws-on-cardiac-arrest-and-defibrillators-aeds.aspx

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/HTM/2012/0/0125..HTM

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/medicalfirstaid/

http://www.aeduniverse.com/AED_Laws_by_State_s/97.htm#Pennsylvania

http://www.aeduniverse.com/AED_Laws_by_State_s/97.htm#Maryland

http://www.aeduniverse.com/AED_Laws_by_State_s/97.htm#Virginia

http://www.aed.com/aed-legislation-guide/legislation-listings