Cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops beating, affects more than 800,000 in the United States every year. Tragically, many of those who survive the attack never fully recover. For victims who suffer permanent brain damage, the question of “Could this have been prevented?” can be difficult to answer definitively.
The heart’s job is to pump blood containing oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our bodies. When it stops beating, the brain is one of the first organs to suffer the consequences of oxygen deprivation. If treatment is provided and the heart is restarted within a couple of minutes, a full recovery may be possible. However, permanent brain damage can occur after only 5 minutes without intervention, and death becomes likely if the brain is without oxygen for longer than 8 to 10 minutes.
Many instances of cardiac arrest occur without warning, so prevention isn’t always possible. Once cardiac arrest has occurred, the most important thing is to keep blood moving to the brain to reduce the risk of brain damage and death. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is the most effective way to accomplish this while waiting for medical professionals to arrive. Additionally, using an AED (automated external defibrillator) to restart the heart can be lifesaving. When performing CPR, chest compressions of at least 2 inches (for adults) help to squeeze the heart and push blood around the body. CPR can double or triple the odds of surviving cardiac arrest if initiated quickly. In an ideal situation, upon finding that someone has collapsed and has no pulse, bystanders would immediately call 911 and begin chest compressions while sending someone to find an AED if they’re in a public space. Unfortunately, many civilians are slow to react in emergencies like this. Many won’t attempt CPR because they’re worried that it’s not needed, that they’ll hurt the victim further, or that they’ll do it incorrectly. AEDs are also often difficult to locate, as they’re not legally required in most buildings.
If CPR is performed and an AED is used immediately after a person goes down, the odds of surviving with minimal brain damage are relatively good. Most people fall somewhere in between, making the issue of negligence a complicated one. In general, bystanders who see an unconscious person with no pulse are encouraged to provide help by calling 911, administering CPR, and using an AED if one is available. However, the law in Pennsylvania states that bystanders are under no legal obligation to help someone unless they share a special pre-existing relationship with them, such as a caregiver or family member.
There are situations in which a person’s or organization’s negligence becomes a legal matter in medical emergencies like these. Suppose medical personnel do not provide appropriate care to a patient who goes into cardiac arrest (such as starting CPR too late, stopping it too soon, or not performing CPR effectively). In that case, they may be held liable for any harm their patient suffers. Likewise, if it can be determined that the cardiac arrest was caused by a doctor’s or nurse’s negligence, such as giving the wrong medication, then the responsible person could be held liable for any damage from that medical error.
Some laws around AEDs may leave the door open for a negligence lawsuit. Suppose an AED is not present or not easily found in a legally required location (such as a school). In that case, that facility can be held liable for harm that could have been prevented had an AED been readily available as legally required. An AED manufacturer can be held liable for any design or manufacturing defects that prevent the device from functioning as intended, and the owner of an AED can be held liable if they fail to properly test, store, or maintain their device according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If your loved one has suffered permanent brain damage after cardiac arrest, it’s only natural to ask if their situation could have been prevented. If you have reason to believe that someone’s negligence caused their cardiac arrest or contributed to the brain damage that your loved one incurred, then you may be entitled to compensation. It can be difficult to prove cases like this, and Pennsylvania law generally only allows two years from the date of the injury occurred to file a claim, so it’s important to find a lawyer with extensive experience fighting for victims of malpractice and brain injury.
The legal team at Ross Feller Casey knows what it takes to win cases involving medical malpractice and negligence. Contact us for a free consultation if your loved one has suffered from severe brain damage after cardiac arrest. We’ll evaluate the facts of your case and determine whether the injury could have been reduced or avoided. Our team of doctors and lawyers understands that these cases are rarely black and white, and it can often be difficult to uncover the truth.
There’s no fee unless we win, and consultations are always free. Contact us today to start your journey toward getting the justice you deserve.
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