Good Samaritan Bill Signed Into Law
Chatham residents Dave and JoAnne Babbitt worked for years to get the government to pass a liability shield for those who use defibrillators to save lives.
Gov. Chris Christie signed a Good Samaritan Bill into law Thursday morning, over 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 automatic 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.
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 resident who died of sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball at St. Patrick Church.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, if a heart in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is defibrillated within the first minute, there is a 90 percent chance that the patient will survive. Survival rates decrease 10 percent for every minute a person in SCA waits to be defibrillated.
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.
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."
Babbitt worked with Wendy Hurdman in Chester and with Dawn Nutt in Mendham presenting to the governing bodies and helping to secure support for placing AEDs around schools and athletic fields.
"It's fantastic news and I want to congratulate Joanne, David and Andrew Babbitt on their tireless dedication and commitment behind this law in honor of their son and brother John and others and spreading the awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and importance of public access to automated external defibrillators," Hurdman said. "Hopefully next on New Jersey 2012 agenda is to pass Janet's bill which is in appropriations committee that would require all New Jersey public and private schools to have an AED available on site and for recreational events. Right now AEds are not mandated for our schools, although they are in PA and NY and other states."