The Senate gave final legislative passage to a bill, (S.6122) sponsored by Senator John R. Kuhl, which would require certain public schools to have at least one cardiac automated external defibrillator (AED) on school grounds and provide properly trained staff. The legislation is supported by the Medical Society of the State of New York and the American Heart Association, among other groups.

“Our schools are among our most vital public places. Now that we are awakening to instances of student athletes, for example, losing their lives on playing fields and in gymnasiums because schools aren’t equipped with a defibrillator and personnel trained to use one, we need to respond,” said Senator Kuhl, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “Defibrillators are inexpensive and can be used by anyone with minimal training. It’s very simply a technology that can save a life, and it should be standard equipment in our schools.”

“The evidence is very clear that defibrillators are an effective and affordable way to help prevent one of the leading causes of death in our state. Quite simply, this bill will help save lives,” said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. “The tragic death of high school student Louis Acompora, who suffered a fatal cardiac arrest during a high school lacrosse game on Long Island in March 2000, demonstrates the absolutely vital need for AED’s on school grounds.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, claiming an estimated 350,000 lives annually. Sudden cardiac arrest is generally caused by an electrical malfunction of the heart called “ventricular fibrillation.”

Defibrillators stop ventricular fibrillation by applying an electric pulse to the heart, allowing a normal heart rhythm to resume. The administration of an AED is highly successful when used within the first few minutes following sudden cardiac arrest. Defibrillators are portable handheld devices about the size of a laptop computer. They generally cost about $3,000.

The American Heart Association believes that as many as 100,000 lives could be saved annually with the widespread use of defibrillators. While defibrillators are becoming more common in state and federal public buildings, their availability is still lacking. The Medical Society noted that because of the strenuous level of activity in many school sports, a cardiac defibrillator should be easily accessible to those programs.