Here's a look at what current medical journals are saying:
Defibrillators can save lives: Lives could be saved if police officers and members of the public had ready access to defibrillators during emergency situations.More than 360,000 Americans experience sudden cardiac arrest each year, with 20 percent of those events occurring in public places such as airports, hotels, streets, casinos and shopping malls. Experts estimate that every minute lost before emergency medical attention is given decreases the victim's chance of survival by 10 percent.
Immediate use of a defibrillator saves lives by shocking the heart back to its normal rhythm. Medical and EMS personnel, some police units and, more recently, crews of certain airlines, are trained to use the equipment.
Researchers estimate that a nationwide public access defibrillation program could save over 24,000 lives every year.
Legal problems exist. As of 1996, only six states - California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, North Dakota and Texas - legally allowed the lay public to use defibrillators in emergency situations. Many legal experts worry that lay people who attempt to use defibrillators to save a life might be held liable later for the victim's death or disability.
Source: Circulation (1998;97).
Helping at a crash scene: Almost half of Americans say they might not stop to help the victims of an automobile crash if they were the only ones available to help, according to a survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NATSA).
Researchers report that the reasons for not stopping include: concern about not knowing how to help, fear for personal safety and worry about being sued. The researchers discovered that women were less likely to stop than men. The urge to "drive on by" increases with rising levels of education.
Almost everyone - 98 percent - said they would call for help using the nearest telephone.
Source: Annals of Emergency Medicine (1998;31 518-520).
Elderly vision loss and car crashes: A 40 percent loss in range of vision among older drivers more than doubles their risk for a car accident. It's believed about one-third of all seniors suffer from such vision impairment.
Presently, most of the nation's drivers are only obligated to pass visual acuity tests that assess their sharpness of vision to obtain license renewals.
Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association (1998;279 :1083-1088).
Recognizing heart attack can save lives: More than two-thirds of those who die from heart attack never make it to medical care, often because they don't recognize until too late that they are actually having an attack. Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack could save thousands of lives.
While some heart attacks present stereotypical sudden, clutching chest pain, experts note that the majority may offer more subtle, gradually intensifying warning symptoms including sweating, nausea, pains in the arms and neck, and problems with breathing.
Victims often deny and are confused about heart attack symptoms. Those who delay seeking treatment rely on the advice of friends and family who agree that the victim's discomfort was due to indigestion, overexertion or some sort of infection.
Source: British Medical Journal (1998;316:1060-1065-1070).