Can you defibrillate yourself?

No, you can’t.

Then again, of course you could. Let’s start with some limits:

  1. We’re only going to talk about Automatic External Defibrillators – these are they type your get to practice with when you come to class (or class comes to you). What doctors do with other types of defibrillator is not the topic for this post.
  2. In class, you’ll use training devices. Certainly the ones we use in class are not capable of giving a shock at all. There’s no current to do that. In fact they tell you so in various languages, so that you don’t try using one ‘for real’ by mistake.

3 situations with live AEDs

So, if you got hold of a real, live, fully charged defibrillator, could you shock yourself?

Let’s imagine 3 situations:

Firstly, say your kids get hold of a defibrillator and put the pads on, say, their hands or feet or something. Not sure why they’d have access to the device, but for the sake of argument they do. Then no, the machine will be somewhat ‘confused’. It won’t be able to detect any kind of heart rhythm and will not deliver a shock.

Next, let’s imagine you are practicing with an AED in some situation. You have your buddy as a practice partner and put the pads correctly in place. You turn on the device and let it walk you through the steps. Could you shock him/her? Still ‘no’ – the AED will detect the living heart-beat and won’t deliver a shock.

Finally let’s assume you have a casualty who needs CPR and an AED. You’ve been through all the steps we taught you in class and have attached the AED and turned it on. It tells you the person needs shocking and charges up….

‘I got careless’

Now, if you’re careless, you might happen to be touching the casualty. Of course we teach you in class to make sure that no-one (including yourself) touches the person when a shock is delivered….. still, here’s what happened to a local Paramedic. He told this story while assessing our training this summer (we passed!):

“I guess I was in a hurry. I had done lots of these before and this time I was less careful than usual. Somehow my leg was in contact with the person when I pressed the shock button. It threw me across the room until I hit the wall. I couldn’t walk on that leg for several days.”

So there you have it – just about the only situation in which you could defib yourself. Only, don’t do it. Apparently it hurts.

If you need an AED

Finally, if you’re in a situation where you need one yourself (we have been asked this in class!) then no, you can’t apply it to yourself. You’ll be unconscious and without a heart-beat. Best hope you brought friends and family along to your training session as well. Book a course now – you may be glad you did.

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at Squamish General Hospital as the pharmacist manager when not busy training safety
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One Response to Can you defibrillate yourself?

  1. Pingback: First Aid – a Blog Round-up | Safety un-Limited

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