Mercer has only two automated external defibrillators on campus, raising concerns that students and faculty may not have sufficient access to potentially life-saving equipment in the event of a cardiac arrest.
Alan Baca, Mercer's assistance vice-preisdent for envrionmental health and safety, said the two AEDs on campus are both located in the University Center –– one in the gym and one in the athletics department, where sports are frequently played.
“We have them in what would quickly and easily be recognized as high-risk locations,” Baca said. “We feel as though we have been responsible about the locations.”
Some states require all buildings to have AEDs, but Georgia’s law only makes recommendations, Baca said. Georgia law also makes no stipulations concerning where AEDs should be located.
SGA has been investigating the possible lack of defibrillators this semester to determine whether Mercer needs more. After discovering that the campus may be lacking in defibrillators, SGA began looking into the matter further.
SGA senator-at-large Stephen Bradshaw, who chairs the Committee on Campus Safety and Improvements, said the jury is still out as far as a conclusion on whether or not more defibrillators are needed.
“At first glance, it looks like something that should be there and needs to happen, but as we look into it we’re going back and forth,” Bradshaw said.
Many factors are playing into the discussion by SGA, Bradshaw said. For one, having defibrilators out where untrained people can access them poses certain hazards and liability issues.
Every state has so-called "Good Samaritan" laws aimed at protecting what it calls “lay rescuers" –– untrained people who take the initiative to use an AED when someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest.
But such laws only provide “limited immunity,” according to the website of the American Heart Association. The AHA emphasizes the importance of letting trained operators handle AEDs to avoid “potentially hazardous situations.”
Baca said AEDs are often advertised as being easy enough for the average person to use, but he believes those who promote the product have tended to downplay the difficulty of handling the machines.
“I think there’s a disconnect between the marketing strategy of AEDs and the implementation of AEDs,” Baca said. Baca said it could be dangerous to enable a layperson to handle an AED instead of letting a trained operator do it.
Yet sometimes a trained operator won't be present when an AED becomes necessary, Baca said.
“The reality is that rarely will there ever be a doctor nearby to use the AED,” Baca said. “You’re going to have a layperson who’s going to grab that and use it.”
The cost of the defibrillators is also a matter of consideration. Each AED device costs between $1,500- $2,000, according to the AHA website. Brad- shaw currently only has enough in his budget to purchase one defibrillator. He said that SGA hopes to work with Student Health if it becomes necessary to buy more AEDs.
“It’s only been in the recent past that these things have become affordable,” Bradshaw said. “It used to be something that only hospitals and ambu- lances had. I think that’s why it hasn’t been looked at before, because it used to be that you couldn’t really get them for personal use.”
In addition to these two concerns, there is debate as to whether or not more campus AEDs would be necessary. Bradshaw said that, to his knowledge, no one at Mercer has ever had an on-campus emergency requiring an AED.
“There aren’t many statistics on it because this kind of thing isn’t a prevalent risk among people of our age,” Bradshaw said. “If something happens with us, it’s usually an anomaly.”
But anomalies do sometimes occur. The shocking death of high-school basketball player Wes Leonard in Michigan this March happened just seconds after Leonard scored the winning basket at one of his team’s games.
While it's not certain that the use of a defibrillator would have saved Leonard’s life, the incident could open new consideration of the merits of easily accessible AEDs, according to an article on Huliq.com.
An incident like Leonard’s death is statistically improbable and impossible to predict, however.
“That’s not to say you don’t need to take the initiative to cut the problem off before it happens,” Bradshaw said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, but we’re trying to do it in the best way.”
Bradshaw said SGA will continue to look into the matter and reach a solution that best serves the Mercer community.