Is Placing Defibrillators In Public Places Legally Right?

Guest Postdefibrillator liabilityEvery year, around 270,000 people suffer a heart attack in the UK, many of these sudden and unprovoked. Being able to act quickly, safely and most importantly, effectively, can quite literally be the difference between life and death.

Keeping calm and collected is key to not becoming overwhelmed, and with sufficient training, first aiders are taught how to keep calm under pressure and follow the required procedures. In the business world, detailed and well-rehearsed strategies are put in place to ensure that should the event of a sudden cardiac arrest, a trained first aider has the equipment and know-how to act accordingly.

How Would You Act?
However, whilst it’s all well and good distributing defibrillators in commercial institutes, can you really do the same in public places? In any business there will be an individual or team of first aiders who are trained in defibrillator application, but can you really expect a member of the public to carry out such a task?

In February 2007, the National Defibrillator Programme placed and distributed defibrillators in public locations across the UK. This was implemented so that members of the public could act quicker thanks to closer access to life-saving Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). But is it right to entrust the unknown skills of the public with the responsibility of saving someone’s life?

The Legalities
No-one likes legal red tape and in such a situation when someone’s life is at risk, many could be hesitant to take responsibility. What if something goes wrong? What if you don’t follow the procedures? What if you’re held responsible? It’s easy to see how quickly things can escalate out of your control.

This is where the debate really begins to gain momentum. For members of the public that have not received formal AED training, the legal implications can be split into statutory rights - those imposed by parliament - and common law - century long laws - and it is this last point where potential liability can arise.

Could I Be At Fault?
The main legal loop that many people can become entangled in is liability and negligence. Acting to save someone’s life can fall on both the individual and the location. If an institution supplied an AED yet did not offer training on how to utilise it, they would be held accountable. Similarly, a non first-aider may not be expected to employ the standard care of a trained professional and so is unlikely to face a claim. There is no legal obligation to assist and individual in need of resuscitation providing they are not the cause.

It is this grey area that often sees family members, friends and indeed strangers unsure, liable and legally dwarfed by their human intentions. Emergencies require emergency action and in the face of a cardiac arrest, every minute that passes, the victim’s chance of survival decrease by 10%.

So What ‘s The Best Course Of Action?
The real answer quite simply falls into your own judgement. If you own a property that provides an AED in a public place, then ensure that a qualified individual is located nearby. Similarly, if you have previous first aid / Defibrillator training or you are confident at the chance of resuscitating the victim, then have faith in your actions.

Sudden Cardiac Arrests can happen anytime, anyplace so make sure you are prepared. Always recruit the expertise of a defibrillator or AED supplier should you have any question and make yourself aware of the laws, procedures and practices surrounding AED’s in the public domain.

Phil Warrington, a law student, looks at the debate surrounding the distribution of AED’s within the public sector and the legal implications that have come with it. For reputable and reliable AED’s and defibrillators, he recommends Defibrillators UK; the UK’s leading defibrillator and AED training provider.


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