By Katherine Wright
Staff Writer, Dayton Daily News
A new Ohio law that allows anyone to perform external defibrillation to resuscitate another person will help reduce delays in lifesaving care, according to first responders.
House Bill 247, which was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich this month, permits any person to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED), even if they have no training in how to use the machine.
“When someone is suffering from a cardiac emergency, every minute of delay decreases their chance of survival by 10 percent,” said Karen Cromacks, a CPR and defibrillation teacher for the American Red Cross in Cincinnati. “If using an AED machine required training by law, then when someone collapsed in a public place, you would have to start looking for someone with a card. That could cause a delay.”
AED machines send a strong electric shock to a heart that is in fibrillation. They are present in most public buildings and are designed to be used by people with little to no medical experience, Cromacks said.
Cromacks said the risk of using them is low because the machine recognizes the difference between a regular heartbeat and a heart in fibrillation.
“The person using the machine doesn’t make the decision whether to shock the person. The machine makes that decision,” Cromacks said. “All you have to do is get the unit, get it on to the person’s chest, and let the machine read the electro activity of the heart and make the decision.”
Dayton Fire Chief Jeffrey Payne said he hopes the law will encourage members of the public to take action in a crisis situation.
“We don’t want people to think that they’ll hurt someone by trying to use an AED machine. As long as they follow the instructions, it’s really an effective tool, and it’s very user-friendly,” Payne said. “We don’t want anyone to fear litigation for trying to help their fellow person.”
Ohio law previously allowed defibrillation to be performed only by those with training in AED and CPR. The new law allows anyone to use the machine, recommending training but not requiring it.
The new law also requires a person performing defibrillation to make a “good-faith effort” to activate an emergency medical system as soon as possible. The law had previously required the person to activate the system. The law, which had previously provided immunity from civil lawsuits to those who use a defibrillator, extends that immunity to anyone who owns an AED machine.
Cromacks said people should still seek training in CPR and AED, however.
“If I collapsed and could pick between someone who had taken a class and someone who had no training whatsoever, I would pick the person with the training,” she said. “I know that person will be somewhat familiar with the machine and will be less flustered.”
A defibrillator should be used if a person is observed collapsed, unconscious and not breathing, Cromacks said. A defibrillator can be used immediately. If one is not accessible, CPR should be performed to buy time until defibrillation.