Imagine your parent, sibling or loved one is feeling weak and lightheaded. Suddenly they feel tightness in their chest and lose consciousness due to a heart condition. What is your first response? Call 911. The moments between the initial 911 call and a loved one receives treatment are critical. February is more than Valentine’s Day and chocolates and roses; it marks American Heart Month.
Nearly 300,000 Americans die every year from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). In fact, SCA is the leading cause of death in the United States. Tragically, many of those lives could have been saved if Automated External Defibrillators (AED) were used. When it comes to SCA, time is not on our side. Every minute a person goes without receiving defibrillation, their chance of survival decreases by 7-10%. With the average 911 response time of over 7 minutes, every second without defibrillation reduces the chances of survival.
When an individual experiences SCA, the best chance for survival is by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and locating and using an AED. That response to a life-saving situation should be treated the same throughout the country, but sadly, it is not.
While every state has laws regulating the use of and training requirements for AED’s, liability for Good Samaritans varies from state to state. Some states have laws that prevent or deter Good Samaritans from taking action in an emergency situation for fear of prosecution. No one should have to worry about the potential consequences of helping someone in need. The patchwork of laws also makes wider use of AED’s difficult for national companies operating in many or all 50 states to understand compliance issues. This can discourage greater availability and use of these life-saving devices.
That’s why my colleague Rep. Gerald Connolly and I introduced a bipartisan bill to address this patchwork of laws and provide certainty for anyone looking to help in a life-threatening situation. Our bill, H.R. 4152, the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act, creates a uniform baseline of liability protection for businesses and Good Samaritans. This legislation will drastically reduce the uncertainty surrounding AED liabilities and has the potential to save thousands of lives.
In a cardiac emergency, defibrillation is the best defense and quick use of AEDs can save lives. The threat of unnecessary lawsuits on AED users should never stand in the way of providing emergency medical assistance. This common sense solution provides peace of mind by removing this threat and will encourage greater deployment of AEDs in public and private establishments. Wider use of AEDs will reduce response times and could save an additional 36,000 lives per year.
During February, the remainder of American Heart Month and every month we can all work to make healthy choices to promote a healthy heart. The Energy and Commerce Committee, which I serve on has held a hearing on the Cardia Arrest Survival Act and I will continue every effort to get it passed in the House and Senate so we can increase the use of AED’s, protect Good Samaritans and save more lives.
Olson (R-Sugar Land) is the representative for District 22.