Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/30/2003 01:48 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 160-CIVIL LIABILITY FOR DEFIBRILLATOR USE CHAIR SEEKINS announced CSSB 160(HES) to be up for consideration. SENATOR OLSON, sponsor of SB 160, said he introduced this bill because every year over 250,000 people die from a sudden cardiac arrest and the most important treatment for more than half of them is immediate defibrillation, which is an electrical shock that is intended to restore normal heart rhythm. For each minute a person remains in cardiac arrest, their chance of survival deceases by seven to ten percent. The current generation of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) is much safer and easier to use having the ability to discern between shockable and nonshockable rhythms. For that reason, it's impossible for a person to get shocked if he doesn't need it. Businesses and municipalities that are interested in making AED's available and more accessible in the workplace are somewhat discouraged because of their potential liability. The American Heart Association supports this bill. SENATOR FRENCH asked how prevalent AEDs are in the workplace in Alaska. SENATOR OLSON answered, where he comes from in bush Alaska, AEDs are non-existent. He knows of just the one in the state building, but the fact that it is on only one floor would significantly diminish its effectiveness to people on other floors. CHAIR SEEKINS remarked that if someone had to run it up or down the stairs, two machines might be needed. SENATOR FRENCH asked how much the units cost. SENATOR OLSON replied it depends on how sophisticated they are. Some earlier generation ones are $1,000 to $1,500; the kind in the legislative lounge is $2,500 and the gold standard unit is $3,200. SENATOR THERRIAULT said he remembers some opposition to the bill last year and asked if any groups had expressed opposition. SENATOR OLSON replied he hasn't heard any opposition. He reiterated that these machines have become safer and safer. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if language was modified from last year's bill. SENATOR OLSON replied yes, language on page 2, lines 10 - 26, was reworked and was much easier to understand. MS. JENNIFER ARP, American Heart Association, supported SB 160 for the reasons stated by Senator Olson. The American Heart Association has outlined a four-step plan called the Chain of Survival because every second counts in cardiac arrest cases. Defibrillators play a critical part in the chain of survival. The four links in the chain are: one, early access or recognizing that a cardiac emergency exists and immediately calling emergency medical services; second, early CPR; third, early defibrillation, which means having immediate access to a properly working AED; and four, early advanced care, which means having qualified paramedics with up-to-date advanced cardiac life support training. Early defibrillation is often called the critical link in the chain of survival, because it is actually the only way to successfully treat most cardiac arrests. A cardiac arrest victim who is not defibrillated within eight to ten minutes has virtually no chance of survival. SB 160 will improve the chance of survival in several ways - by eliminating the threat of civil liability for providing AEDs, thus making them more readily available, and by providing appropriate training. The bill also eliminates civil liability for individuals who use an AED on a victim in an emergency. CHAIR SEEKINS said the bill defines appropriate training and asked if the Heart Association offers the certification training courses. MS. ARP replied they do. The course takes a couple of hours and involves both CPR and basic AED training. The American Red Cross offers the class as well. She didn't know of any other organization that provided the training. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if it is clear to everyone what an AED looks like and does it need to be defined in statute. He was concerned that someone might call another device, that wouldn't do the job, by the same name. MS. ARP replied the wording in the title may have just one meaning. SENATOR OLSON pointed out that there is a difference between a defibrillator and an AED. Defibrillators have been on the market for a long time and don't have what qualifies as an AED. He demonstrated an AED for the committee. MR. MARK JOHNSON, Chief, Community Health and Emergency Medical Services, supported SB 160 for all the reasons already stated. He added that the department recognizes at least one other course, but he didn't have the name with him. He said that wherever AEDs are placed, the local emergency medical service should be notified so that the EMS dispatcher would be able to tell someone who called where the device is located. No one knows specifically how many there are. The department received a federal grant to purchase 80 AEDs and they are in the process of distributing them across the state. Some municipalities and organizations have been reluctant to have the devices because of potential liability, but that is addressed in this bill. He said that the training classes run two to four hours and the Food and Drug Administration regulates the devices. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if the department had a position on the bill. MR. JOHNSON replied the department supports the bill. SENATOR THERRIAULT motioned to pass CSSB 160(HES) from committee with the accompanying fiscal note. There was no objection and it was so ordered.