Recently, my husband and I have been binge watching through all five seasons of Breaking Bad. In the last season, a gentleman decided to kill himself using an AED.
AED stands for Automatic External Defibrillator. It is a quick rescue device used mostly by non-medical people for cardiac arrest. It is designed to recognize lethal heart arrhythmias and deliver a shock (electricity) if the patient is in one. The AED will not always fire. In fact, there are really only two arrhythmias it is designed to treat.
The question becomes, can you use an AED to commit suicide? An AED has two large, white patches connected to the device. In the show, the gentleman places one patch on his chest, pulls off the other patch and places the exposed wires in his mouth. After this, he turns on the device and discharges it, thereby killing himself.
This scenario is highly improbable and here’s why:
1. Both patches must be in place for the defibrillator to analyze the patient’s rhythm. If they’re not, the machine will not progress any further.
2. Let’s say the AED would read the rhythm (one patch on the chest and exposed wire in the mouth)— it won’t deliver electricity for a normal rhythm (which this gentleman likely has because he’s alert and conscious.)
3. Let’s say the AED did fire for his normal heart rhythm— would he die? There is a slight chance that he might die, but only if the AED fired during a very sensitive time in the electrical cycle of his heart which has a very low probability.
All in all, I don’t find this method of suicide possible. Sorry, Breaking Bad, though I did love the series.
I’m an avid reader. Don’t you have to be as a writer? I have to admit, there are a few authors I lean toward. Generally, I’ll read most of what they publish.
I also have an issue. I know that it can be very hard to get medical details right in a manuscript. I faced this challenge when I wrote an OB scene and had an OB nurse review it. To put it mildly, she was displeased with what I wrote. I was actually relieved to find that out during the editing phase rather than have a whole lot of obstetrical nurses throwing my novel into the trash because they were offended at something I’d written.
Usually, I’ll give a little leeway to those I read… a little. For instance, using EKG instead of ECG is okay… not great but I generally peruse by without much thought.
I was reading one mega-bestselling novelist when he began to write a hospital scene. The character had been beaten up fairly well and there was a description of the medical equipment that was attached to his body. It read something to the effect that, “He had nasal cannulas in his nose.”
A nasal cannula (nasal prongs) is an oxygen delivery device. It’s very common. The correct way to note the use of this piece of equipment would have been to say, “He had a nasal cannula in his nose.”
The way the writer phrased it immediately brought an image to my mind of two of these stuck up his nose. Now, my story bubble has burst and I’m re-reading this sentence to be sure that’s what he really said.
If you’re unfamiliar with medical equipment, run the scene by someone familiar with its use to avoid simple mistakes like this one.