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February 8, 2006

The Automated External DefibrillatorClinical Benefits and Legal Liability

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: New England Medical Center, Boston, Mass.

JAMA. 2006;295(6):687-690. doi:10.1001/jama.295.6.687

Sudden cardiac arrest is the most common cause of death in the United States, accounting for an estimated 350 000 deaths annually, and it is a leading cause of disability and health care costs.15 Life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation usually cause sudden cardiac arrest.614 Early defibrillation of ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation is necessary to resuscitate individuals with cardiac arrest, and survival depends directly on the time to defibrillation. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) reduce the time to defibrillation and have improved survival rates.614 Although clinical benefits of AEDs are established, individuals, institutions, and organizations implementing AED programs have faced a seemingly complex and evolving legal and regulatory landscape. However, compliance with relevant regulations minimizes legal risks of AED ownership, use, or medical oversight.15,16 Healthcare professionals should be aware of the clinical benefits of AED programs and strategies for risk management.

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