Senate Passes Baker Legislation Providing Stronger Protections to Good Samaritans

HARRISBURG – The Senate unanimously approved legislation this week to protect bystanders who act to help victims of sudden cardiac arrest, according to Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), who sponsored the measure.

Senate Bill 351 would expand the state’s Good Samaritan law to cover people who, in good faith, use CPR or first aid to assist victims during an emergency. It also releases from liability business and property owners who place an AED on their premises.

Current law provides uneven legal protections for bystanders and emergency response providers, according to the American Heart Association, a leading proponent of the Baker bill. Bystanders are currently protected from liability if they use an AED, but not if they render CPR or first aid. Emergency response providers are also protected from liability if they use an AED but not if they render CPR/first aid.

“Pennsylvania remains one of only a handful of states that does not provide full legal protections for bystanders who render CPR,” Baker said. “The difference between action and inaction can be the difference between life and death.”

She noted that the bill underscores the importance of training and protects those reasonable people who act in good faith to help.

Senator Lisa Baker
Floor Remarks – Senate Bill 351

Senate Bill 351 is a legislative priority of the American Heart Association, and has been for years. Since we are all susceptible, unfortunately, to having a sudden heart attack, this bill should be a priority for each of us.

Across the nation, more than 300,000 sudden cardiac arrests happen where medical assistance is not within easy reach. If life-saving equipment is not nearby, and no one is willing or able to administer CPR, the chances of survival are slim. However, if CPR is performed immediately, a victim’s chance of survival doubles and possibly triples.

Yet, Pennsylvania remains one of only a handful of states that does not provide full legal protections for bystanders who render CPR.

Senate Bill 351 fixes the law in two ways: first, it protects Good Samaritans who, in good faith, rush to the aid of someone in an emergency. Second, it protects from liability those businesses with automated external defibrillators—AEDs– on their premises. Businesses are vulnerable to litigation both when an AED is used and the outcome is not good, and when they have an AED on the premises and it is not used.

With the proper equipment at hand and the proper legal protections in place, a Good Samaritan can jump in and lend a hand without being frozen with fear of litigation. Heart health experts will tell you–it is always better to do something than to do nothing when someone is in distress. The difference between action and inaction can be the difference between life and death.

Passing this bill does not mean that Pennsylvania is empowering bystanders to act negligently or carelessly. Instead, this bill underscores the importance of training and protects those reasonable people who act in good faith to help.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931