Did you know that the law actually encourages lay people and bystanders to perform CPR and to use an AED on people who have suffered from sudden cardiac arrest and that it actually protects them from litigation?
Traditionally, the public has been concerned about performing CPR and using an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) due to fears of hurting the victim and potentially incurring liability. Neither of these two fears are accurate or true. A person who has just suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest is clinically dead. It is not possible to cause further injury to such a victim by performing CPR or by using an AED.
Additionally, there are Good Samaritan laws enacted in each state in our country and there is a federal law as well known as the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act (CASA). Although the laws vary from state to state, these laws generally encourage bystanders and the lay public to perform CPR and to use an AED by protecting them from liability. Depending upon individual state law, the categories of people who are given protection include the lay public and sometimes first responders and medical professionals. Again, depending upon state law, protection is granted unless the responder is negligent (which legally means failure to reasonable care under the circumstances) or grossly negligent (which legally means acting with a conscious disregard for the safety of the victim.)
Under either circumstance, it would additionally have to be proven that the responder caused or contributed to injury or death in the victim, which is very difficult to prove, if not impossible, where the victim is already clinically dead.
Furthermore, hands only (chest compressions) CPR has been proven to be very successful and there is no need to give rescue breaths unless the rescuer has a barrier device, thereby protecting the rescuer from contracting any illness from the victim. Traditional CPR with rescue breathing is still recommended for children. Also, AEDs are very simple to use and require nothing more than turning on the device and listening to its instructions. They are specifically made for people without any medical training at all.
The simple truth is that the law protects us only when we attempt to save a life!
Steven B. Tannenbaum is an attorney practicing in Lake Success, New York, with more than 40 years of experience in the litigation of liability issues. He is the Board Vice Chair of Parent Heart Watch, a Board member of the Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation, the Dominic A. Murray 21 Memorial Foundation, and a past Board Chair of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. He has spoken nationally on liability issues concerning the use of AEDs and Good Samaritan legislation. He is a very grateful survivor of a sudden cardiac arrest which occurred on May 6, 2009.