[OPINION] Janet’s Law Is Lifesaving Legislation

As a cardiologist and on behalf of the American Heart Association, I want to thank the New Jersey Legislature and the Governor for the recent passage of Janet’s Law, lifesaving legislation supported by the American Heart Association that will make the Garden State’s schools safer for all who enter the facilities and grounds.

Sudden cardiac arrest can strike anyone at any time, often without warning. In fact, the American Heart Association reports about 295,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (treated by emergency medical services) occur in the United States each year. The quicker a victim of cardiac arrest receives CPR and defibrillation, the chances of survival increase. Therefore, it is important that bystanders know how to react quickly and appropriately.

In recent years, there have been many cases of students and others suffering from cardiac arrest on school property, during the school day and after school hours. Ensuring school personnel are appropriately trained to effectively respond with the necessary tools will save countless lives of students, teachers, parents and others who spend time in our schools. Janet’s Law, named for 11-year-old Janet Zilinski of New Jersey who died of a sudden cardiac arrest in 2006 during cheerleading practice, enables schools to be prepared for cardiac emergencies.

Thanks to the work of the New Jersey Legislature and the Governor, all schools will have automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in place by September 1, 2014, trained personnel and an action plan to respond if the unthinkable should happen to students, teachers or others on school property. Janet’s Law not only honors the memory of Janet Zilinski but makes our schools safer for all residents and communities throughout the Garden State.

I am pleased there was overwhelming support by the legislature and I applaud Governor Christie for recently signing this important legislation that makes New Jersey more prepared to save lives from inevitable sudden cardiac arrest.

Marcus Williams, MD
Immediate Past President, Regional Board of Directors
American Heart Association, New Jersey
Cardiologist, Cardiac Associates of North Jersey

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