Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lawyers Suck.

This isn't really about surgery, but it is medical.

If you have a heart attack in public, what is your chance of survival? It depends. If there is not a defibrillator near by, 6%. If there is one, 50%. Modern defribillators are marvels. It takes five miutes of training to learn how to use one. Actually, since they are designed to talk the unitiated though the process it doesn't even take that. The user needs to be able to figure out how to turn it on, get two pads on approximately the right positions on the victim's body, and hit the shock button when the machine says to. The machine's computer makes the rest of the decisions. They are also relatively cheap.

The key thing is that they must be used as early as possible. Within minutes, the patient will pass beyond the point where any medical intervention will help. If a paient has to wait until EMS arrives, it will probably be too late. These marvels were designed with the idea that they would be widely available in the community, at stores and churches, in parks, in apartment buildings and the like. Then the lawyers arrived.

Many states offer some form a immunity to owners of difibrillators. If a local convience store owner buys own, and has to use it, and the patient dies, then the store owner can't be sued, even if the store owner used the device incorrectly. California offers qualified immunity. The store owner only has immunity if they jump through several hoops, including training employees in the use of the devices and monthly checks of the equipment to for good working order, and developing a written plan for their use. Failure to jump through every hoop looses the store owner immunity and exposes them to liability. Of course, standing there and watching the customer die exposes the store owner to no liability at all. Given his legal environment, many business owners rationally choose to not buy defibrillators.

A state senator proposed a bill to sweep all of this away and give owners of defibrillators unqualified immunity. Without the fear of liability more places would buy these life saving devices, more people would live who would otherwise die. Who oposed the bill? Lawyers. Without liability there could be no lawsuits, and that would be bad for lawyers. Who else oposed the bill. An EMT who runs a company that provides the training required by the current law to avoid liability. These people suck.