Legislature(2001 - 2002)
02/27/2002 01:40 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 325-CIVIL LIABILITY FOR DEFIBRILLATOR USE MS. WILDA RODMAN, staff to Senator Therriault, sponsor of SB 325, read the following sponsor statement. SB 325 is intended to save lives by increasing the availability of automated external defibrillators, devices designed to restore a normal heartbeat when a person's heart suddenly stops. Each year, 250,000 people die in the U.S. because of sudden cardiac arrest. The most important treatment for more than half of these patients is defibrillation, an electrical shock intended to restore a more normal cardiac rhythm. For each minute a person remains in cardiac arrest, their chances of survival decrease by about 7 to 10 percent. The increased availability of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, can help save lives by allowing shocks to be delivered prior to the arrival of the ambulance crew. AEDs have evolved significantly over the past few years, and the current generation is safer, easier to use and more maintenance free than ever. Businesses and municipalities are interested in making AEDs more accessible in the workplace and where large groups gather so that trained staff and laypersons can access the device. Currently, AS 09.65.090 provides immunities from civil liability to individuals who use the device, but not to those who make the device accessible for use. This has limited the accessibility of AEDs because of the perception of excessive liability due largely to an unfamiliarity with the current ease and safety of the latest technology. It is literally impossible to shock a person who does not require shocking with the current device. SB 325 extends immunity from civil liability to those who provide AEDs with important prerequisites to ensure their safe and effective use. It also amends the section of statute providing immunity to those who use AEDs in recognition of how much easier it is to safely use the newest generation. MS. RODMAN offered to answer questions. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN said the committee has heard similar legislation that pertained to emergency medical technicians. She then took public testimony. MS. KATHY MCLAREN, the emergency medical services training coordinator for DHSS, stated support for SB 325 for many of the reasons presented already. She then gave the following testimony. 67 percent of sudden cardiac deaths in Alaska occur out of hospital or patients are pronounced dead at the emergency room. Increased availability of the automated external defibrillator is the only treatment for many of those patients. The American Heart Association has described the "chain of survival" as early access, early CPR, early defibrillation and early advanced care. Each link in this chain is critical to increasing survival from sudden cardiac events. Alaska has moved from manual defibrillation in hospital by advanced life support personnel to automated external defibrillation at the basic EMT level. Alaska was one of the first states to permit AED use at a level below that of an EMT. Currently, lay people are trained in basic CPR and they can be trained to apply and operate the AED. The machine is applied - a microprocessor evaluates the rhythm, determines whether a shock is required. The operator can then administer the shock. This machine is only applied to and used on patients who are not breathing and who do not show signs of circulation. A patient without a pulse or who is not breathing is dead or dying. Access to AEDs may provide a chance of increased survival. SB 325, by reducing the liability for the people who purchase and make these devices available, will likely increase the number of AEDs available in this state. For that reason, the Department of Health and Social Services supports SB 325. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked Ms. McLaren if she had a proposed amendment. MS. MCLAREN said she did. MS. RODMAN said she saw the proposed amendment right before the meeting and explained that when the bill was originally drafted, it applied to a "person or entity." The legal advisor recommended dropping the word "entity" because the definition of a person includes an entity. She said the intent of the amendment is to include state agencies and municipalities and that Senator Therriault is not opposed to the amendment. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked if the DHSS legal advisor recommended the amendment. MS. MCLAREN said her understanding is that some of the people who initially proposed the amendment are from municipalities and state agencies. They were concerned that language in AS 01.10.060, which defines "person," was not sufficiently clear to provide protections for municipalities and state agencies. MS. RODMAN read the applicable part of the statute referred to by Ms. McLaren as follows: In the laws of the state, unless the context otherwise requires, a person includes a corporation, company, partnership, firm, association, organization, business trust, or society, as well as a natural person. SENATOR WARD said he believes the legislators' legal advisors were correct. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN said the definition does not specifically mention a municipality and asked if it mentions a state agency. MS. RODMAN said it does not. She pointed out that the legal drafter advised her that a person encompasses entity, and thus encompasses municipality or state agency. CHAIRWOMAN GREEN suggested addressing the proposed amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee. MR. TIM BEGAINE, Director of Emergency Operations for the Fairbanks North Star Borough, stated full support of SB 325. The borough encountered businesses and municipalities late last summer that were interested in making automatic external defibrillators more accessible in the workplace and in places where recreational activities take place. The borough looked at applicable federal and state laws, and found that the borough would assume liability for providing public access to an AED. Existing Alaska statute provides immunities from civil liabilities to those who use the device, but not to those who install the device. SB 325 will correct that deficiency and will assist in the promotion of this life saving device in Alaska. MS. PAM BEALE, Emergency Cardiovascular Care Manager for the American Heart Association, expressed the following concerns with SB 325. A provision requiring that EMS workers be notified of the number and locations of AEDs was removed but she believes notification would be a great service to the community. In addition, she would like to add municipalities and state agencies to the definition for the purpose of clarification. MR. F.X. NOLAN, Chief of EMS Training for the Anchorage Fire Department and the Municipality of Anchorage AED, Public Access Defibrillation Coordinator and the Anchorage Chair of the Northwest Region of the American Heart Association's Operation Heartbeat Initiative, informed members that Alaska's share of the 250,000 people who succumb to sudden cardiac death every year is slightly under 400. Some of those people die in medical facilities, but in Anchorage every year, between 90 and 100 sudden cardiac deaths occur outside of a hospital. Last year, of the 90+ people, 43 were defibrillated with AEDs prior to the arrival of paramedics - by firefighters, police officers, or others. Out of those 43, 12 went to a hospital with a pulse. He very much supports SB 325. He sees a proliferation of AEDs in the future; SB 325 will remove the perception of liability when used by a member of the public. He agrees with the amendments proposed by the previous speaker as he believes it is desirable for local EMS agencies to know where AEDs are located. There being no further testimony or questions, SENATOR WILKEN moved SB 325 with its zero fiscal note and individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried.