Can you defibrillate yourself? No, you can’t.
Then again, of course you could. Let’s start with some limits:

  1. We’re only talking about Automatic External Defibrillators – these are they type your get to practice with when you come to class. What doctors do with other types of defibrillator is not the topic for this post.
  2. You use training devices in class. Certainly the ones we give you in our class are not capable of giving a shock. 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.

Defibrillate yourself: 3 situations with live AEDs

So, if you got hold of a real, live, fully charged defibrillator, could you defibrillate yourself?
Let’s imagine 3 situations:
Toddler, you cannot defibrillate yourself
Firstly, maybe 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 practising 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 – that’s why we all shout “Clear!”….. 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 defibrillate 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.

We hope that clear up the question of self-defibrillation, but feel free to leave a comment or question!