Local News

Lawmakers Push Legislation To Put Defibrillators In Public Places

Posted March 20, 2000

— Adefibrillatoris a high-tech machine that can save lives. It is so simple that almost anyone could use it to help someone having a heart attack. Lawmakers are pushing a bill to put the devices in public places.

RefereeJim Knightalmost died at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. He was officiating a UNC-Virginia football game when he had a heart attack on the field.

Today, he is praising defibrillators.

"That piece of equipment, with the good Lord's approval, is the reason I'm here," Knight says.

Lawmakers want to put automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places like malls and airports. RDU has defibrillators; in fact, the airport has used them 25 times in five years.

Lynette Rivenbark of theAmerican Heart Associationsays the bill would help everyone.

"This is legislation that's saving lives," Rivenbark says. "This is not anything complicated."

If AEDs were available anywhere, and someone used one to help save a stranger, what if they used it incorrectly or used it and the person died?

The new legislation tries to protect everyone.

"In other words, it's the good samaritan language," Rivenbark says. "You do what you're supposed to do. You're not grossly negligent, and you will be held liable."

Dick Taylor of the Academy of Trial Lawyers says he does not have a problem with defibrillators, but he does have a problem with the bill.

"The first version says you are immune if you are careful, but the second version says you are immune if you are not careful," Taylor says. "We shouldn't enact legislation without being clear about what the purpose of it is, and what it is trying to accomplish. That is not clear at this point."

For his part, Jim Knight just knows the machine works. He is living proof of it.

"I just think you can make it happen," Knight says. "I don't think there's any precipice that you can't cross on something this important."

The American Heart Association is now fine-tuning the bill. Lawmakers will take it up when theGeneral Assemblyconvenes in May.

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