Janet’s Law, a bill to put automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in every school in New Jersey, has cleared committees in both the State Senate and the State Assembly. It will next go to a full vote of both houses.
Bill S-167 (and a companion bill in the Assembly) would require all public and private schools serving children in grades K through 12 to maintain on their premises a readily-accessible AED and to have five school employees certified in CPR and AED use. Janet’s Law is named in honor of the late Janet Zilinski, a New Jersey student who collapsed and died after a school cheerleading practice in 2006.
This legislation is championed by Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Somerset-Morris.
“Although doctors cannot predict when sudden cardiac arrest will occur, we can take precautions to react quickly and save lives regardless of whether the episode occurs during school hours or at an extracurricular event,” Bramnick said in a report carried by news site NewJerseyHills.com. “With proper training and access to an AED during an attack we can prevent tragedies such as Janet’s.”
Karen and Jim Zilinski, Janet’s parents, created the The Janet Fund to donate AEDs to New Jersey schools and playfields. More than 100 AEDs have already been provided.
The Zilinskis met with state legislators to advocate for Janet’s Law. They said more than 30 school children in the state have died of sudden cardiac arrest since her daughter’s death in 2006, while in states with school AED laws (New York, Ohio, and Texas), dozens of students’ lives have been saved.
“It can’t be about the money,” Jim Zilinski said. “It has to be about saving lives.”
Janet’s Law has support from organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey, New Jersey Association of School Administrators, New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, New Jersey Recreation and Parks Association, New Jersey State School Nurses Association, Parent Heart Watch, and the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation.
Proposed expansion of Good Samaritan protection
A second AED bill, intended to update the state’s existing Public Access to Defibrillation Law, passed the New Jersey Senate’s Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee in January and is headed for consideration by the full state Senate. The proposed legislation would expand the state’s “Good Samaritan” law and extend protection from civil liability to any individual who uses an AED in an emergency situation. Existing New Jersey law protects from liability only rescuers who hold current certifications in AED use.
The new bill would extend protection to all individual rescuers — and to organizations that own an AED and make the device available for public use.
Bill proponents point out that advances in AED technology now make it possible for an untrained person to conduct an AED rescue. Once a defibrillator is opened, the device provides step-by-step voice prompts that walk users through a rescue. As soon as pads are attached to a sudden cardiac arrest victim, the AED is capable of diagnosing a shockable condition, and will administer shock only if it is required.
“Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from sudden cardiac arrest, many of whom could be saved if an automated external defibrillator was nearby,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale, who chairs the New Jersey Senate’s Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee. “Unfortunately, our current laws discourage organizations from acquiring a defibrillator, and put undo strain – including fear of lawsuits – on those who use the devices to save a person’s life. This legislation updates the law to protect those good Samaritans who go out of their way to try and save someone in cardiac arrest.”
NJToday.net reports that the bill’s supporters include the John Taylor Babbitt Foundation, which donates AEDs to schools, churches, and sports organizations. The foundation discovered that some organizations were reluctant to acquire an AED because of fear of liability if the AED were used.
For more information on New Jersey AEDs, please contact AED specialist Mark Peters.