Shock It to Me

New automated defibrillators are saving lives--and making money for an upstart manufacturer

When an engineer at a semiconductor factory in Watertown, Mass., collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest, David Collins, the plant's health-and-safety manager, was on the scene in two minutes with an automated external defibrillator (AED), a device that can jolt a heart back to its normal rhythm. precious minutes before paramedics could arrive, Collins followed prompts from the AED and gave the engineer two electric pulses that saved his life.

The engineer, now well and back at work, is among the thousands of Americans who have been rescued by AEDs. For years defibrillators were used only by doctors, like the ones on...

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