Nursing homes debate defibrillator requirements

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Nursing homes in Pennsylvania are debating whether facilities should be required to install automated external defibrillators, according to local news reports.

The debate began when a retired deputy sheriff learned that there were no defibrillators in his father-in-law's Lancaster County nursing home, according to the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era newspaper. He learned that nursing homes in Pennsylvania are not required to install defibrillators, despite the fact that defibrillators are commonly found in schools, shopping malls, grocery stores, gymnasiums, churches and police cars.

Nationally, healthcare officials are divided as to whether defibrillators are helpful to nursing home residents. One heart rhythm specialist told the newspaper that defibrillators should be required since, if used quickly, residents with arrhythmias could be resuscitated and go on living for years. The counterpoint is that older residents, in their 80s and 90s, are more likely to die from an arrhythmia in the time it takes to track down the defibrillators. Other facility personnel argue that skilled nursing residents often have advanced directives requesting that defibrillators and other life-extending equipment should not be used.