- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | A Maryland man who says he survived a heart attack because a 16-year-old girl used a defibrillator to jolt his heart back into action wants the state to limit liability for facilities that make the medical devices available.

Montgomery County resident David Hedrick was on a treadmill at a Silver Spring YMCA in July 2005 when he had a heart attack and collapsed.

“I don't really have any recollection of what happened, but I was dead,” Mr. Hedrick said Tuesday, until a teenage lifeguard found an automated external defibrillator and used it to save his life. A defibrillator delivers an electric shock to a patient's heart to jolt it back to a normal heart rhythm and in some cases revive activity.

Last year, state lawmakers extended immunity for individuals who use the devices to save lives, but the measure did not cover buildings and corporate entities. Right now, only facilities that have their defibrillators registered with the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems can be eligible to receive immunity from liability.

Delegate Susan Lee, Montgomery Democrat, is trying to change that, saying 20 other states have limited civil liability for facilities that make defibrillators available on site.

“When seconds matter, you can't agonize, 'Oh, should I save that guy or not?' out of fear of litigation,” bill sponsor Mrs.Lee said. “It's good safety and health public policy to do this.”

The measure would protect facilities like restaurants, apartment buildings, fitness centers and golf courses from many lawsuits, unless there is gross negligence or the device is not properly maintained. Bill supporters told lawmakers Tuesday that many places are hesitant to get defibrillators because they fear they could be sued for how the device is used.

“We want to encourage buildings to put defibrillators in and not be fearful of consequences,” Dr. Alvan Morris said, explaining that his own Chevy Chase condominium complex has resisted the devices because they're concerned about the potential for lawsuits.

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