What is an AED?
An Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is a lightweight, portable and easy to use device that delivers shocks to a casualty that has suffered a cardiac arrest. A sudden cardiac arrest if it is not treated within minutes it can quickly lead to death. A casualty’s chance of surviving drops by 14% for every minute a normal heartbeat isn’t restored and CPR alone has a 5% success rate while defibrillation has 50% success rate. AEDs are important as they provide the possibility for more people to respond when a cardiac arrest occurs. AEDs can be used by untrained personnel because they provide full step by step guidance for preparing the casualty so previous training is not required. AEDs work by analysing the casualty’s heart rhythm to determine if defibrillation is needed and only deliver a shock if it is required. AEDs will not deliver a shock if defibrillation is not indicated.
Do you need an AED in the workplace?
With the increased popularity of AEDs as a result of their success rates, being available in more and more public places as well as regulations stressing out the importance of employers providing the right First Aid provision, the question of whether an AED should be made available at work arise.
At the moment, there is no legislation in the UK which requires employers to provide an AED in the workplace though there can be liability in negligence for failing to take appropriate safety precautions in the workplace. So far there have been no cases in the UK against any employer who has not provided an AED in their premises. However, in the USA, two airline companies were successfully sued because an AED was not accessible to treat passengers who suffered cardiac arrests during flight.
With around 100000 people dying each year as a result of a cardiac arrest and around 13% of workplace fatalities happening every year from the same reason, having an AED in the workplace is highly recommended.
Are there any legal risks for those attempting to resuscitate a casualty while suffering from a cardiac arrest?
Although the success rate of AEDs is high and they are available in many public places, there is a concern that individuals who attempt to resuscitate a casualty that suffered a cardiac arrest may be at risk of having a claim brought against them if the casualty suffers any harm as a result of their intervention. Especially if that individual has not received previous AED training. The Resuscitation Council (UK) states with regard to that “it is, unfortunately, extremely difficult to give any definitive advice on this subject partly due to the absence of any legal precedent and partly due to the difficulty of predicting what sort of harm might actually be suffered as a consequence of any attempted resuscitation.” However, there are no cases in the UK where a casualty has successfully sued an individual who came to his help in an emergency. Another argument is also the fact that it would be difficult to see how an intervention could leave a casualty worse off since in the case of a cardiac arrest the casualty would without immediate resuscitation, undoubtedly otherwise die. In addition to that, the AED is the one that actually analyses the condition of the casualty and determines if a shock is required or not. Casualties in the state of cardio-pulmonarry arrest are clinically dead.