On March 8, 2008, I had a heart attack while picking up my youngest daughter from Girl Scouts. While I was unconscious and not breathing on the side of the road, calls were placed to 911 but no one initially attempted CPR. I was lucky, however. A good Samaritan, a teenager certified in CPR, stopped and literally kept me alive until the paramedics came. If that teenager didn’t stop, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.
The existing Good Samaritan Law in New Jersey protects individuals from liability that are currently certified in rescue efforts. However, the American Heart Association is urging our elected officials to expand the existing Good Samaritan Law to protect anyone who acts in good faith in an emergency situation. There are several reasons for this necessary change. 1) studies show that people are scared to help in a crisis due to fear; 2) studies show that doing something is better than nothing and can have life saving benefits and 3) the majority of public automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are computerized and are easily used.
I understand that everyone doesn’t know what to do in an emergency situation. We should all get trained in CPR at the very least. But what I can’t understand is the law not protecting a good Samaritan – certified or not – who is trying to save someone’s life.
The American Heart Association reports approximately 80 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in private or residential settings. Looking back at my situation, I am grateful and lucky that a CPR-certified teenager and paramedics with an AED saved my life. I also know that I would feel just as grateful and lucky even if they hadn’t been certified.
If you see someone in an emergency situation, you should help. Period. There shouldn’t be a second thought because there isn’t time to spare. According to the American Heart Association, if bystander CPR is not provided, a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival falls seven to 10 percent for every minute of delay until defibrillation. I can’t stress it enough, doing something is better than doing nothing.
So how good is the Good Samaritan Law? Let’s just say we need to make it better.
Laurie Heavener of Randolph NJ
American Heart Association Survivor Ambassador