Gov. Chris Christie signed a Good Samaritan Bill into law Thursday morning, two months after the bill was passed by the State Senate by a vote of 37-1 and passed the Assembly unanimously 75-0.
The Good Samaritan Law absolves those trying to help save a life of responsibility if they cause injury while attempting to give aid. Until now, this protection did not extend to a person owning or using an automated external defibrillator (AED) during a cardiac arrest.
An AED is a portable device that is used to restore heart rhythms to patients in cardiac arrest. It automatically analyzes the heart rhythm of the patient and advises the user whether or not a defibrillator is needed to return the patient to a normal heart beat.
New Jersey is now the 44th state to pass a Good Samaritan law.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation Advisory Board Member Andrew Roszak, JD, MPA, EMT-P, an attorney nationally recognized as an AED litigation expert, praised the new law, stating “liability is often perceived as a barrier to the use and deployment of AEDs. The enactment of this new law modified the existing statutory language, and now makes clear that lay persons who use AEDs in good faith will receive immunity from civil liability. By protecting members of the public and AED owners, we can only hope that more AEDs are deployed and used in our communities.”
According to The Chatham Patch, many credit the progression of the bill to feedback from the John Taylor Babbitt (JTB) Foundation, whose mission is make sure that an AED is available near all public assemblies.
The JTB Foundation was named for a Chatham, NJ, resident who died of sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball at St. Patrick Church.
Due to a lack of access to AEDs, currently only five percent of people in sudden cardiac arrest survive. Early defibrillation is the most critical step for survival.
Joanne Babbitt got involved after her foundation and like-minded civic groups ran into difficulty getting municipalities, churches and schools to accept their AED donations. "We literally couldn't give these things away," Babbitt said.
New AEDs "speak the instructions, step-by-step, and will only recommend a shock if there is no heartbeat. The person basically has to be dead," Babbitt said. "The only way you can hurt someone with this device is if you pick it up and hit them over the head with it."
To read the law, click here.