"Public access to defibrillators represents potentially the single greatest advance in the treatment of cardiac arrest since the development of CPR."
—Tom P. Aufderheide, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin
The time has come for church leaders to consider the purchase and installation of defibrillators. A defibrillator, or automated external defibrillator (AED), is a small electronic device that uses electric shocks to stop an abnormal heart rhythm—known as ventricular fibrillation (VF)—to restore a normal heart beat. VF is by far the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest. Without defibrillation, persons who are suffering from VF will die within a few minutes, often before paramedics arrive.
EXAMPLE Gary, a middle-aged man, clutches his chest and collapses during a worship service. The service is abruptly halted, and the congregation is horrified. Some panic, and most have no idea what to do. One member frantically tries to apply CPR. Another calls 911. Fifteen minutes later paramedics arrive, but all efforts to revive Gary fail. He is pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. Gary is survived by his wife and two children, all of whom witnessed the tragedy. In the days that follow, members of the congregation begin asking questions: "Was there anything we could have done to save Gary's life?" "Would it have mattered if our church had a defibrillator?" "If we did have a defibrillator, would our church have been liable if it was not used properly, or failed to save Gary's life?" "Could our church be liable for Gary's death because we don't have a defibrillator?"