The heart-shocking devices featured so prominently on ER
and other television doctor-dramas can now be found in a growing
number of airports, schools, malls, and other public places.
They're also showing up in more and more private places — homes.
These devices, called automated external defibrillators, are so
easy to use that a child who has never seen one before can master
its use in minutes. All the user needs to do is turn on the
machine and place the pads on an unconscious person's chest. The
machine checks the heart rhythm and, if it detects the kind of
abnormality that can be converted with a shock, it tells the
rescuer to press the shock button. To see how to use an automated
external defibrillator, this YouTube video
covers the basics.
The first external defibrillators for home use could be bought
only with a prescription and cost about $2,500. In 2006, you no
longer need a prescription, and the cost is edging down toward
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