NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 25, 2009

If your heart stops suddenly, you may not want to be at a hotel, says the Wall Street Journal.

Automated external defibrillators -- laptop-sized devices that can automatically restart a heart after sudden cardiac arrest -- are now required equipment on commercial airliners and have saved lives at airports, casinos, health clubs and many public buildings.  But hotels have resisted installing them, citing potential liability issues, says the Journal:

  • Global Hyatt Corp. says just roughly 20 percent of its properties have AEDs -- though that number is increasing.
  • Choice Hotels International Inc. says "very few" of its hotels are equipped.
  • InterContinental Hotels Group PLC says it doesn't require its hotels to have AEDs "but the matter is currently under review," a spokeswoman says.
  • Expedia Inc. says of the 53,000 hotels that can extensively spell out their amenities on its site, about 7,000 hotels, or 13 percent, list "medical assistance available," which can include an AED or other services.

"At a five-star hotel, are they really giving the best service they can to their guests if they don't have an AED?" asked Maureen O'Connor, public-access defibrillation program manager in San Diego, where a county program to push AED installation has run into resistance from hotels.

  • Hotels worry that if they have the devices, which cost about $1,200 to $2,000 each, they could be sued for failing to have enough units, failing to put them in the right places, or failing to replace batteries or maintain them properly.
  • Another concern is hotel worker training: Our goal is to make sure guests in medical distress are treated by trained personnel, such as EMTs or paramedics, says a spokesman for Marriott.

Michael Caspino, an attorney specializing in lodging issues, says many hotels worry that Good Samaritan laws, which provide legal protection for people making a good faith effort to render assistance, aren't adequate.  Further, they don't want to incur the costs to defend a lawsuit -- even if the case ultimately gets thrown out.  Courts have typically held there is not a duty to have an AED, he says.

Source: Scott McCartney, "Why Hotels Resist Having Defibrillators," Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2009.

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