Do Hospital Defibrillators Work?

Defibrillators are supposed to save lives by restoring a patient’s heart’s normal rhythm through a shock administered by pads placed on a patient’s chest.  A new report suggests that the expensive upgrade of automated external defibrillators in hospitals across the U.S., as recommended by an American Heart Association (AHA) committee, may have been a mistake.

The latest research suggests that the new defibrillators actually save fewer lives than the old defibrillators. One estimate tallies nearly 1,000 additional patient deaths due to cardiac arrest in hospitals.

Reported problems with the devices – which can be found not only in hospitals, but schools and public spaces here in Oregon– include a failure to turn on, or turning off unexpectedly. Thousands of the hospital defibrillators have been recalled, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Apparently, at least three people on the 11-member AHA committee that initially recommended the in-hospital use of defibrillators had links to companies that made the automated external defibrillators. Connections between physicians and drug companies and device manufacturers are an ongoing concern.

A health policy expert, Dr. Gordon Guyatt, states “It is extremely unwise to be spending all this money on intervention that may not prove to be of benefit, and may actually be doing more harm than good.” Read the full article at, or see investigation details at