Maybe you have seen the stories on your local news – “Man, woman, child, saved by quick-thinking bystanders who performed CPR and used an Automated External Defibrillator to save them after they went into sudden cardiac arrest.” AEDs, as they are more commonly known, are becoming ubiquitous in places like airports, fitness centers, malls, and churches. But who decides where an AED should be placed? Should there be state mandates above and beyond what already exist to ensure more lives are saved? Are we, in fact, our brother’s keeper?
In Oregon, there is a law which requires AEDs in “any place of public assembly with a facility of 50,000 square feet or more and with at least 50 individuals present on a normal business day.” Let’s face it – this encompasses a LOT of public places! High-rise buildings, warehouses, resorts, hotels, stores, the list goes on and on. Just this month, at a Target store in Keizer, Oregon, employees saved the life of a 72-year-old woman who went into cardiac arrest by following their training: they called 911, began CPR, used an AED and revived the patient. In fact, by the time EMS arrived, the woman was conscious and speaking. Would the Target store have had the AED and the training, if it weren’t for Oregon’s law? Odds are, probably not.
In 2012, at a Target store in Pico Rivera, California, Mary Ann Verdugo was shopping when she went into sudden cardiac arrest. This Target store did not have an AED, as it is not Target Corporation’s policy to provide these devices in store locations where it is not required by law. Ms. Verdugo’s family brought a lawsuit against Target, claiming “as a commercial property owner, Target had a common law duty to maintain an AED onsite.” In 2014, the case was taken as far as the California Supreme Court which ruled “[U]nder California law, Target’s common law duty of care to its customers does not include a duty to acquire and make available an AED for use in a medical emergency.”
Circuit Court Judge Harry Pregerson, one of the ruling judges in this decision, attached a separate opinion to the official court documents, stating his hope that “big box stores like Target will, at the very least, recognize their moral obligation to make AEDs available for use in a medical emergency. Should that not come to pass, I hope that the California Legislature takes a hard look at this issue and considers a statutory standard of care that will protect consumers by requiring big box stores to make lifesaving AEDs available.” The word which stands out in this statement is “moral” – where Target has a moral obligation, along with other large corporate stores, to care for its customers. Can a corporation be held to subjective standards such as morals – the understood implementation of what is right and good?
One store which bases its entire philosophy of operation on morals is Goodwill – an understanding of what is right and good. Recently, at a Goodwill store in Westin, Wisconsin, employees saved the life of a mother of five who went into sudden cardiac arrest – again using their emergency training and doing everything right, including the use of an AED. The North Central Wisconsin Goodwill stores understand the importance of these simple, safe devices, and have made the decision to make them available in all 26 of their Wisconsin stores, should a customer need to be rescued.
So while corporations should not necessarily be held to human moral standards, it should be taken into consideration AEDs save lives, and they are available to anyone at a reasonable cost. By placing these safe, simple devices in places where a large cross-section of the population congregates, whether required by law or not, more people have the potential to survive – since defibrillation is the ONLY treatment for sudden cardiac arrest. And isn’t that, simply, right and good?