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New Maryland Law Aims to Improve AED Access

Softball team

On April 21, 2022, the Maryland legislature signed into law House Bill 836 (“HB 836”), also called the Elijah Gorham Act, which requires Maryland’s public middle and high schools to develop venue-specific emergency action plans to deal with sports injuries. HB 836 becomes effective on July 1, 2022. 

The Bill is named after 17-year-old football star Elijah Gorham, who tragically passed in September 2021 after experiencing a brain injury during a game, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. Although emergency responders were notified, Elijah didn’t receive medical care for 45 minutes, which many speculate could be the cause of his untimely death.

The story of Elijah is all too common for many who experience Sudden Cardiac Arrest, making it a leading cause of death in the United States today. With this new bill, many locations may acquire life-saving AEDs, making them more accessible to the public in Maryland. With increased access and education to AEDs, at least 40,000 lives could be saved every year.

Softball Team

This new Maryland AED Law bill requires all public middle and high schools to have emergency action plans, including the requirement to have AEDs on site. While this is a great first step towards the health and safety of student-athletes, it does little to resolve today’s Good Samaritan law challenges.  Maryland AED Law has one of the most cumbersome laws in the country. HB 836 is not exempt from these complex requirements, it continues to promulgate them. 

This new bill refers to and mandates compliance with several other state codes and regulations that require “certification” from Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS). Unfortunately, the MIEMSS system is confusing and links to an unrelated third-party website marketing AEDs, accessories, and programs, an arrangement that may discourage agencies and organizations from sharing their information or, worse, acquiring AEDs. 

Another major hiccup in the current Maryland regulations when it comes to AEDs is the lack of Good Samaritan protection. If an organization has an AED that is used but has not satisfied MIEMSS’ requirements, then the Good Samaritan protection may not apply. Businesses can make a plea in front of the EMS board if this is the case, but unless MIEMSS offers a Notice of Denial, the business is not legally allowed to have a hearing with the board. At that point, businesses find less risk by not housing an AED at all than risk the time and money to find certification.

In the end, HB 836 is an important step to ensure school athletes’ safety while on school grounds but even more work is needed. Maryland should promote the use of AEDs,  and simplify the process of obtaining an AED. It is the responsibility of the people of Maryland to follow the fantastic example of Elijah Gorham’s parents in lobbying the legislature and demanding change that will increase the opportunity to save lives.    

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