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Defibrillators to be Used by All, Lawmakers Hope

JEMS.com Editor's Note: In his June 8, 2008 Street Science article, Dr. Keith Wesley discusses a study that attempted to determine whether home AEDs improved survival of 7,001 patients in the Home AED Trial. Read "Did AEDs Make a Difference?" to see what Dr. Wesley says about the study.

Two proposals aimed at broadening the use of technology to intervene in heart attacks and to allow the state Department of Health to track disease outbreaks in real time received preliminary approval by lawmakers during interim committee meetings Wednesday.

The Utah Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survival Act would permit people without a license or CPR certificate to use an automatic external defibrillator on anyone reasonably believed to be in sudden cardiac arrest. The measure would provide immunity from civil liability if the AED was operated correctly and the action did not constitute gross negligence or willfully misusing the apparatus.

AED's are saving thousands of lives and being used without any previous training in workplaces and buildings where they are located, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, told members of the Health and Human Services Interim Committee. The new models of AED's pass the "crayon test," he said, meaning that anyone stepping into help a heart attack victim can use the machine. It gives step-by-step instructions and determines if a heart attack is indeed under way.

The bill would also replace a state database and would advise the nearest location of an AED that might be closer and more quickly administered than waiting for emergency medical help to arrive.

A quicker response is the hope of a new disease outbreak surveillance system proposed to by public health administrators. A real-time reporting system has been requested before, but the 2007 summer outbreak of illnesses due to cryptosporidium exposure may add some urgency to the proposal.

Real-time monitoring would have likely prevented, or at least dramatically cut, the number of people who got sick a year ago, state health officials said. Exposure to fecal material in swimming pools initiated the outbreak that led to 1,963 confirmed cases -- the largest outbreak in U.S. history, according to state health department records. There are around 30 cases annually in Utah, and 14 cases the previous summer. E-mail: jthalman@desnews.com

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