Each year, more than a quarter million Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest. According to medical experts, the key to survival is timely response including CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or the use of a portable lifesaving device, called an “automated external defibrillator” or “AED“. You do not need to be a medical professional to use these devices to treat a person in cardiac arrest. The AED device “guides the user through the process by audible or visual prompts without requiring any discretion or judgment.”1 The American Heart Association notes that thousands of lives could be saved annually by prompt use of defibrillators.
As a result of these statistics, many private residential communities question whether or not a defibrillator would be a wise purchase. Florida was the first state to enact legislation in April, 1997, to encourage the placement of AED’s in public places. As of 2001, all 50 states had enacted similar legislation. There is no requirement that a private community association purchase or maintain a cardiac defibrillator. However, if you do purchase one, please speak with your association counsel about the protocol you must follow for proper maintenance and use of such device, including: training potential users, testing the device regularly according to manufacturer specifications, ensuring that all members know where the device is stored, etc.
The biggest worry most people have when confronted with potential use of an AED is whether or not there will be liability for the improper or unsuccessful use of the device. Florida does have a “Good Samaritan” exemption from liability for persons who render emergency treatment with the device. Chapter 768 of the Florida Statutes is known as the Good Samaritan Act and it insulates any person, including those licensed to practice medicine, who gratuitously and in good faith renders emergency care or treatment without objection of the injured victim or victims thereof, from liability for any civil damages as a result of such care or treatment or as a result of any act or failure to act in providing or arranging further medical treatment where the person acts as an ordinary, reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
This does not mean you can pick up the defibrillator device and use it as a weapon to hit someone over the head and expect to be protected from liability!
The decision to purchase and maintain an AED is unique to each community depending on its membership’s needs and the board’s willingness to explore these devices as a potential lifesaving device to be used should an emergency occur.
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