External heart defibrillators can save lives, provided they work properly.
How can you tell whether one might have problems? A South Florida Sun Sentinel story says to "check the manufacturer's website periodically to learn about safety alerts or recalls, and to keep up with the changes."
The Food and Drug Administration demanded safety upgrades in automated external defibrillators from manufacturers in a plan announced Monday. This Los Angeles Times story says the FDA acted after some units were found to have harmful, even deadly, shortcomings.
The defibrillators double the chances of survival for heart attack victims when bystanders use them in airports or casinos, but not when used in hospitals. A new study, the Los Angeles Times reports, shows that the defibrillators in hospitals "not only provide little benefit but actually increase the risk of patients dying."
Still, it's worth knowing how to use one if an emergency arises. Here’s a tutorial (in Spanish too) about the defibrillators posted by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.