Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/27/2002 01:40 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                 

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