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Entries in defibrillator (1)

Monday
Jan302012

Death? Or Life? 

By Craig R. Waters

© JohanSwanepoel - Fotolia.comLast month, a New York appeals court issued a ruling that could have significant and far-reaching consequences for health clubs nationwide.

The Appellate Division, Second Department, unanimously concluded that clubs have a legal duty to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) on a member experiencing sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

New York’s existing General Business Law 627-a requires clubs to have AEDs on-site, along with an employee trained in their use, but the December ruling was the first to posit an “affirmative” requirement to use them in the case of a cardiac emergency.

The finding could, conceivably, set a precedent for court decisions in other states that have mandated the placement of AEDs in health clubs.  

The New York case grew out of a 2008 motion filed on behalf of Gregory Miglino, who had collapsed and died after playing racquetball at a club in Lake Grove, New York. Court records indicate that another member alerted the front desk, which immediately called 911. While several employees, including one trained in AED use, soon brought the AED to Miglino and checked his pulse, they didn’t utilize the device. Minutes later, an ambulance arrived and took Miglino to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The records didn’t indicate why the AED hadn’t been employed.

Conversely, not a month goes by when there aren’t several reports of club members’ lives being saved by the prompt use of an AED.

© CLIPAREA.com - Fotolia.comIn December, George Besheres, 65, of Lynn, Massachusetts, found himself among that fortunate group. The retired contractor was beginning a workout at the Latitude Sports Club, an IHRSA-member facility in Peabody, Massachusetts, when he suffered cardiac arrest, passed out, and, falling on his face, gashed himself badly. Within seconds, though, he became the focus of a concerted rescue attempt involving both club staff and members.

Among those who came to his aid were employees Judith Bennett and Kristin Hoffman; trainer Keith Leblanc; yoga instructor Alice Odachowski; and members Dr. Carol Warfield, a physician; Cheryl Seaman, a hospital ER nurse; and John Salvanelli, a firefighter.

CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation were administered, and, when the club’s AED arrived, it was used immediately. The first shock failed to restore Besheres’ heartbeat, but a second one succeeded.

Rushed to a hospital, Besheres subsequently had triple bypass surgery and is now recovering at home. “I’m felling very, very well,” he told The Salem News. “I can’t say enough about the club and all the help I got from the members and the staff.”

While the ramifications of the New York ruling have yet to play out, one thing is clear: clubs must pay attention to the evolving legal issues relating to AEDs in health clubs. 

IHRSA supports AED legislation that contains necessary liability protections —including reasonable legal protection for clubs who do not use the AED —for club owners and their employees, reasonable staffing requirements for staffed and unstaffed clubs, and adequate compliance time.

Andy Roeder“Clubs should certainly take note of the ruling and its implications,” suggests Andy Roeder, the president of CardioReady, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, an independent review board that certifies cardiac emergency readiness programs in public venues. “The court has indicated that the expected duty of care cannot be met by merely acquiring and installing AEDs… We believe that the best approach for clubs to take in managing this risk is to position themselves beyond reproach by implementing emergency response programs that conform with best-practice standards. Vibrant, documented plans can certainly help insulate clubs from liability, and, more importantly, better safeguard human lives.

“The costs of implementing comprehensive programs pale in comparison to the expenses of litigation and the value of a club’s customers,“ he told CBI.

CardioReady, an IHRSA associate member company, notes that if an AED is used within 3-5 minutes of collapse, a victim has a more than 70% likelihood of recovery. If, however, an AED isn’t used within five minutes, their chances fall to under 5%.

“The emotions run the full spectrum from devastation with a lost life…to elation with a saved one,” explains Roeder. “When describing our program, we refer to ‘reputational protection’ and the fact that an SCA event can lead, in the extremes, to either negative or positive press. The SCA save story isn’t just a great human-interest piece. It’s also a great business-interest piece.”

 - Craig R. Waters is the editor-in-chief of CBI and can be reached at c.waters@fit-etc.com.