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Magical Defibrillator
Even Death Is Cheap with a few of these around.

Hank: In case I'm incapacitated for any reason, do you know how to start a man's heart with a downed power line?
Bobby: No.
Hank: Well, there's really no wrong way to do it.

Apparently, the defibrillators they buy for fiction can revive anyone because Lightning Can Do Anything. Like CPR, the paddles, which are rubbed together rapidly before being applied, can bring back a patient from the brink of death in all but the most dramatic situations. The patient will always jerk violently when the charge is applied, and if the portrayal is inaccurate enough, you'll see visible sparks. Especially common after a Hollywood Heart Attack.

In real life, the defibrillator is a highly useful and remarkable device, but it isn't a magical "instant revival" machine. While early defibrillation is instrumental in improving survival ratios for witnessed and unwitnessed cardiac arrests, there is a specific time window in which shock must be applied. In general, if defibrillation isn't applied within four minutes after the onset of arrest, the odds of successful conversion drop drastically. This four-minute window has driven the adoption of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in public places, to decrease the arrest-to-shock interval. For dramatic purposes, the Magical Defibrillator almost never works on the first attempt, but a second try will usually revive the patient - in real life the odds of successful conversion go down the more shocks a patient requires.

A defibrillator does not restart the heart. It stops a dysfunctional rhythm (e.g. pulseless tachycardia: beating too fast without effective pumping, or fibrillation: irregular beating without pumping) in the hope that the heart's intrinsic mechanisms will restore an effective rhythm. If a first responder arrives on a scene and the person has been unconscious for more than a few minutes, they will do two minutes of CPR first to remove metabolic waste products and bring in fresh oxygen. Then they will shock. After a shock, they will immediately resume CPR - remember, the shock stops the heart, not starts it. If this is ineffective, the cycle continues until more advanced help arrives, along with more shocks delivered at several minute intervals. (Protocols vary by locality, and AEDs vary, get trained or follow the instructions on the AED.) Of note, a flat-lined ECG (asystole) is not shockable - you can't stop a rhythm that doesn't exist. However, you can have a total lack of heartbeat without flatlining. The heart is effectively on idle but not doing anything. In such a case, a defibrillator can still work well.

In addition, perhaps regrettably, modern defibrillators lack the cool metallic sounding KACHUNK! when administering a shock, and no matter how vintage the equipment, the patient does not jump several inches off the floor. The paddles are only rubbed together gently to spread the conductive gel on them, not furiously to build up a charge. (AEDs usually have one-use adhesive pads instead.) The electrical shock does cause generalized muscle contraction, but the movement is more akin to someone who was startled suddenly, and the only sound is that associated with someone say raising their arm up and then letting it drop back slightly. Interestingly enough, most modern models offer an audio recreation of the sound associated with a capacitor charging, a low whining tone steadily increasing in pitch. (Modern capacitors charge noiselessly, but Genre Savvy manufacturers added the sound feature after discovering that medical personnel expected to hear the whine and thought the devices were malfunctioning if they didn't.)

In fiction, the quasi-logical extension to this protocol is to eschew the medical machine and just hook the poor guy up to a suicide cord (that's a technician's term for a wall plug with nothing but two bare wires). Ironically, shocks from mains power like this are usually a good way to induce the conditions that need defibrillation, and therefore a horrible idea. This may lead to the occasional subversion in thrillers and action flicks where defibrillators are used offensively.

Whether this is used accurately or not in medical dramas will be a toss-up. (Grey's Anatomy tends to shock flatlines; ER didn't most of the time.) Expect it to be used humorously everywhere else.

This trope also covers literal magical defibrillators in the form of applying lightning-based powers to revive people, though depending on exactly how magical and handwavy those powers are, this may be somewhat more justified.

Generally regarded as an acceptable break from reality in video games. For more unrealistic first aid tropes, see Worst Aid.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece, after a severe system-wide shock from a Reject Dial stops Eneru's heart, he uses his electrical powers to restart it.
    • Which is surprisingly both very wrong and right at the same time. Normally traumatic cardiac arrest cannot be overcome by shocking, however due to the way the hearts leaky calcium channels are designed the heart can be induced to beat by tapping it. Tap it hard enough and you can disrupt the rhythm entirely and cause fibrillation. Which can be shocked.
    • Thankfully, you can't defibrillate a punch to the face.
  • Averted in the Pokémon anime, when Nurse Joy resorts to defibrillators when Pikachu's heart rhythm lowers (it had been seriously injured in battle with a Raichu)... and it takes a few tries to get it back on the right pattern, implying that it might not make it after the third attempt. Pikachu is the mascot of the franchise, so we know better.
    • An interesting variant of this trope appears in another Pokémon episode where Ash's Pikachu is taken to a hospital and defibrillated. In this case it seems to act more like smelling salts, although it may have to do with the fact that the paddles were placed on Pikachu's electric pouches.
    • Played straight when Pikachu IS the defibrillator, however. Ash's heart has stopped multiple times throughout the series and each time Pikachu revives him by shocking him. It doesn't work on petrification, though.
  • A magical example: Hei from Darker than Black uses his electricity-based powers to reset his heart after it's been affected by a resonance-disturbing sonic scream. Just in case we hadn't figured out that he's a Bad Ass yet.
    • Like the above one piece example this is actually quite plausible, even more so given that the resonance-disturbing power explicitly mess up the heartbeat/rythm, which a real-life defibrillator can fix(that and since his powers work on a molecular level its possible he can even restart his heart after flatlining). Now the question of whether he could stay conscious long enough to use his powers when his brain and body are devouring oxygen and glucose in full combat arousal is another question.
      • That is actually address in-universe, as Hei barely had enough time to use his powers before passing out.
  • Another magical example, this time from Magical Records Lyrical Nanoha Force. Some members of Hayate's crew, such as their pilot, Lucino, and the members of their main strike force, come equipped with Magitek Automated External Defibrillators that kick in during emergencies. This is a good thing since when Tohma activated his Zero Effect, it caused a good number of people to go into cardiac arrest.
  • Hime from Princess Resurrection uses a defibrillator offensively to incapacitate a room full of people. The head physician was shocked by her clearly impossible action before realizing she had wired her android to the defibrillator to use her as a more effective energy source.
  • In one episode of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, the cast acquires a defibrillator that can revive everything: dead relationships, dead sports teams etc. Taken to the logical extreme by reviving actual dead people to start a Zombie Invasion.
  • Averted in Digimon Frontier: in the finale, defibrillation does absolutely nothing to revive Kouichi. Given that it's The Power of Love that revives him shortly thereafter, though, it's pretty clear they weren't trying to realistically render defibrillation anyway...

    Comics 
  • In one issue of DC Comics' Power of Shazam, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel summon their magical lightning to act as a defibrillator. It's made clear that they have to both be involved, using the opposite Transformation Sequences so the lightning is channeled correctly. Because otherwise, exposing a flatlining man to magic lightning could be dangerous.
    • Also used in another comic, JSA, where their evil counterpart Black Adam attempts to do something not-so-evil and revive his teammate Atom Smasher with his magic lightning. To be fair, Atom Smasher's powers revolve around increasing his size and he was a giant when he went down, so traditional methods probably wouldn't work. Plus it's always dramatic to have one of the Marvel family repeatedly yell their code word. ("SHAZAM! SHAZAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!". Really, it works).
  • Storm uses her lightning this way once in X-Treme X-Men, to save the life of Davis Cameron, the future Dumb Rookie Slipstream.
    • Magneto has done this before too, during one of his good weeks.
  • Part of the Star Wars: Legacy comics. Cade Skywalker, latest bearer of the Skywalker name, has an uncanny gift for bringing people back from the brink of death. It looks rather like Force Lightning; he has to tap the Dark Side to do it, but it has managed to save instead of harming.
  • In the issue after Superman's death, medics attempt to revive Superman using defibs, but his body just wouldn't take it. Professor Hamilton hauls out a massive device that requires a massive energy charge for one charge and needs a personal barrier to protect you from the super shock. Bibbo takes the first try and it blows him back several feet and still knocks him out. Does jack for Superman.
    • In a later comic Superman is fighting Doomsday again and almost dies. This time Black Lightning himself using his powers to restart Superman's heart.

    Films 
  • First seen in the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage.
  • The premise of the movie Flatliners. They are even able to revive someone clinically dead for up to 12 minutes, and have them instantly come to with no brain damage whatsoever.
  • In the film Short Circuit 2, the robot, Johnny, is given a battery charge from a defibrillator.
  • Used in an important role in the film The Abyss. The only thing that saves the scene from being completely wrong is the fact that the defibrillator is an early 80s model that wouldn't have had a "quick look" ECG function, and hence the Deep Core crew had no way to tell if the victim was in asystole (hosed) or pulseless VT/VF (recoverable). All they knew was that the victim had no pulse.
    • And in the Novelization, it was really an intervention by the ETs that saved her. In the film, it's just Bud's Miraculous Bitchslap of Life.
    • To be fair, Lindsey had to warm up before she could have shown any signs of life.
  • In Powder, the title character uses his odd electrical powers to revive a schoolmate who had drowned. In a more straight play, it is implied he tried this on his grandparents, too, but they weren't as lucky.
  • In the film There's Something About Mary, Pat Healey tries to revive a dog with a cut lamp cord. He winds up setting it on fire instead.
  • In the James Bond movie Casino Royale, Bond uses a defibrillator from his MI6-issue medical kit to revive himself after being poisoned with digitalis during his poker game. Averted in that digoxin does cause a number of arrhythmias, and treatment consists of administration of an antidote and an anti-arrhythmic agent (the two syringes from the kit); defibrillation isn't indicated unless the patient tips over into V-fib, which Bond did. Previous to that point, the MI6 medical staff were using Bond's AED as a quick-look ECG rather than as a defibrillator.
  • In Diary of the Dead, one was used unconventionally — as an anti-zombie weapon. It was only partially successful.
  • In the movie Our Man Flint, Derek Flint manages to revive a man from near-death by using an unorthodox defibrillation procedure. He has one man stick his finger in an light socket, then uses a human chain to apply the electricity and shock the victim's heart back into working.
  • In the made-for-TV Disney movie The Thirteenth Year, the main character, an electricity-generating merman, revives a friend after he almost drowns by shocking him.
  • In Bean (in the words of the Literary Agent Hypothesis "novelisation"), "all you have to do is put the round things on someone's chest, yell 'Clear!' and then they come back to life!... But I thought I'd better try the round things on my chest first." - which launches him through the air to land on a comatose patient and accidentally revive them. Admittedly residual electrical current in Mr Bean might have helped there but it's still crazy.
  • Done for laughs in Eraser. A character fakes a seizure to create a distraction, and while he's in the building infirmary, pulls out the cable monitoring his heart rate out of curiosity. This causes the flatlining alarm to go off, so the nurse immediately starts zapping him, with him furiously struggling. She actually gives it to him three times with no ill effects.
  • Messed up horribly in Mission: Impossible 3. They need to use a defibrillator to shock someone's head in an attempt to overload the electronics inside an explosive pill (no, really), but fail because the defibrillator (which, it should be reminded, is a tool that might be needed at a moment's notice) has a warmup time (with large-font countdown), which just so happens to be a few seconds longer than it takes for the pill to go off.
    • To add to the defibrillator magic, a character acknowledges that shocking someone like that will stop her heart. The Hero responds that he'll just use it again to restart it.
      Luther: If you zap her like that you'll stop her heart!
      Ethan: Then I'll zap her again and bring her back!
  • In Police Story, thieves jump-start a woman's heart with a car battery.
    • Referenced in Rob B Hood, another Jackie Chan film, where he tries to jump-start the heart of a baby using a car battery.
    • And inversely, Jackie Chan uses an actual defibrillator as an improvised weapon in The Accidental Spy.
  • In The Prize (1963) two doctors use the lamp cord method to revive a heart attack victim in a Stockholm hotel room.
  • In Scanner Cop, the hero uses a defibrillator - using his telekinesis to move it - to kill the Big Bad.
  • Used in Inception to bring Fischer back from the dead after taking a bullet through the chest. Possibly, possibly justified by the fact that this happens inside somebody's dream and the dreamer may have changed the rules so that a defibrillator would be capable of that.
  • Accidentally subverted in the MST 3 K movie Devil Fish, proving that even a broken clock is still right twice a day. It's made to look like the doctor did everything he could to save a dying patient when he whips out a defibrillator and starts zapping the poor guy's chest, but the results are about what they'd be in Real Life: patient has a pulse, doctor defibs him, and then patient flatlines.
  • In the third Meet the Parents movie, Jack uses the suicide cord technique to defibrillate himself when he realises he's having a heart attack, after calling the paramedics and telling them where he is and what he's about to do.
  • In Rat Race, a medical courier accidentally grabs an electric fence while holding a human heart that has been out of its cooler for a while, rolled around the messy floor of his van, flung out the window into a field, and chewed on by a dog. The heart starts beating in his hand, with the implication that all the unfortunate things that have happened to it are fixed and it is still good for transplant. This falls under the Rule of Funny but really tests the limits of its power.
  • The A-Team film has a subversion or something, when Murdock tries to escape the mental hospital by jump-starting an ambulance. With a defibrillator. It doesn't work.
  • Knowing does a weird version of this. The EKG is clearly showing v-fib (i.e. the thing you actually want to defibrillate) and the EMT administers defib, which correctly stops the heart. This, however, surprises the EMT somewhat, causing them to call the time of death without even attempting CPR.
  • In Hansel And Gretel Witch Hunters, Gretel defibrillates Edward using a homemade, steampunk taser.
  • In Space Jam, when we go though a montage of the Tune Squad's injuries after getting thrashed by the Monstars, Watch Hazel is seen using a defibrillator on Taz.

    Literature 
  • Area 7 by Matthew Reilly has a Magical Defibrillator. In it, a character is executed by lethal injection. The book goes into detail on how an overdose of multiple chemicals induce unconsciousness, paralyze his lungs, and stop his heart. Several minutes later, he's revived by a defibrillator. From that point on, he's fine. Apparently it cures poison, too.
  • At the end of On the Edge, Rose Drayton uses up all of their magic and dies. Declan brings them back to life by "flashing" his magic into their chest repeatedly to restart the heart.
  • In The Dresden Files: Changes, Harry Dresden awakens to find Waldo Butters attempting to revive him with a defibrillator. Mere moments later, Butters uses the same defibrillator to stun a hitman.
  • Subverted in Ark Angel. Alex uses a defibrillator to stun a character, the whole thing being preceded with something along the lines of "he knew what they did, he'd seen a lot of television". Those must have been some pretty accurate television shows.
  • One of the books in The Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce involves Alanna giving a magical lightening zap to restart Daine's heart, a rather straightforward application of this trope (however since we don't see the scene happen from that end, we don't know whether anyone yelled "Clear!").

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Alias season 3 episode "Facade", Ricky Gervais is a very Mad Bomber who doesn't afraid of nothing, especially the electric chair. Or is he? When all else fails and they're all doomed, Spy Daddy steps up to the plate to strangulate Ricky, having attained a portable defibrillator from nowhere, and has it fully charged and waiting right around the corner. When Ricky dies, Spy Daddy brings him back and tells him that there is no white light for people like him and that they'll do it all again unless he stops the bombs, and they're both confident that it will work again and again because it's a Magical Defibrillator.
  • In a Mr. Bean sketch, the bumbling character revives someone with the bare cable method, but then accidentally electrocutes him soon after.
  • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger has Tetsu use his Lightning Fist attack as a defibrillator to save Ban.
  • An episode of ER had a perfectly-conscious character who required cardioversion for atrial tachycardia telling the doctors to use a certain energy level, as he had had the problem a number of times before and 200 joules was always what fixed it before. The doctors follow procedure, shocking the patient multiple times at increasing energy levels, but 200 is still what sets his heart rate to normal.
    • Compared to other medical shows, ER avoided this pretty well, and in fact sometimes put placing accuracy over dramatic license to good use. Not using (or better yet, discontinuing) the defibrillator when a patient goes into asystole ramped up the tension, precisely because uneducated but Genre Savvy audiences expect this trope to be true. This leads to accurate procedural facts giving a misleading implication: when "even" the "magical defibrillator" is useless, things are really going south.
    • This is likely due to the fact that series creator and executive producer Michael Crichton completed an MD before his fiction writing career took off.
  • Inverted in Scrubs, in which the appearance of defibrillators is a sure sign that the patient is a goner.
    • Early in the series Turk encountered a sleeping patient whose heart monitor leads have fallen off, so Turk assumes he is flatlining and tries to shock him. Although it is used for comedy, as a doctor Turk should have known better than to defibrillate what he thought to be an asystole.
      • Somewhat justified in that the scene's intent was to show how bamboozled all the new interns were with the responsibilities of their new job.
  • Averted in Breaking Bad when the Salamanca assassin who survived after trying to kill Hank is going into cardiac arrest, one nurse asks if they need to use a defibrillator, and another replies that there is no need as the patient is in asystole.
  • When Max from Dark Angel jabs herself with a Cybernetic implant to make herself able to defeat some rival supersoldiers. After kicking ass and taking names, she starts to seziure as it is starting to burn out her nervous system and brain. Thus, Original Cindy and Logan have to stab through her neck into the implant with a knife and use it as a conductor for a defribillator.
  • In House, Kutner sets fire to a patient with a defibrillator, earning him the name of "professional defibrillist" from House. He also shocked himself unconscious when he used a defibrillator on a wet patient. He seems to like his nickname though. Despite being promoted as a less-drama-more-medicine medical show, House's team has about a 50% chance of incorrectly trying to shock a flatline instead of administering the proper medications.
    • Is it? While the monitors usually do show flatlining, when the paddles are brought out, the doctor asking for them almost always calls out, "She's going into v-fib," or "We've got v-tach," or something to that effect.
    • Plus, at least twice a character pointed out that the patient wasn't in V-fib, and the doctor in favor of shocking them insisted, "It could be a *fine* V-fib," meaning the little random spikes you'd see in ventricular fibrilation were present, but too small to readily tell from a flat line. The nay-sayer usually shrugs or gives the doctor with the paddles a look, but lets them go ahead and try it.
  • Played for laughs in Bottom where, in the episode "Gas", Eddie tries to revive a presumably dead gas-man with some electrical wires. He first lodged them in his chest to no effect, then tries them on his crotch before sticking them in his nostrils. He considers this conclusive proof that he's dead (and probably would be anyway after that). Shockingly the gas-man actually wakes up later on alive and only quite dazed and suffering from slight amnesia, despite having been attacked and brutalized in all manner of ways in an effort to revive him or hide his body.
  • Used in a sketch on Scottish comedy show Chewin' the Fat where doctors are using defibrillators on a patient to no effect except the usual cliche muscle spasms you would expect. One doctor then suggests "Try his nuts!" at which point they use them on the patient's crotch, which revives him immediately.
  • Defibrillators often appear in Stargate SG-1, but strangely, the patient either always revives on their own before the pads are applied, or just dies anyway. One wonders why they bother keeping them around.
    • Averted once in SG-1, in "Singularity"; the Goa'uld bomb causes Cassie to develop a fairly serious arrhythmia, which is successfully treated by one round of defibrillation. (It doesn't stop the bomb, though.)
    • Defibrillation (with CPR) only works about 50% of the time, under ideal circumstances. Under normal circumstances, it's far less likely to work. Depending on the specifics of the situation, the odds of successful resuscitation could easily drop to as low as 5%. Spontaneous resuscitation certainly qualifies as "magical," but unsuccessful resuscitation is unfortunately perfectly normal.
  • Zig-Zagged once in Stargate Atlantis, where a defibrillator was actually used to stop John Sheppard's heart to stop an alien parasite from feeding on him. Once his heart is stopped, the defibrillator is used in attempt to restart his heart, but it doesn't work and it takes CPR plus medical attention to get Sheppard's heart started again. So while they might get the facts about defibrillators wrong, it's not really treated as a magical heart-fixing button.
    • Also, in a later episode, Dr. Keller uses a defibrillator to short out an implanted tracking device. However, she notes how risky it is and using it could kill the subject.
  • Angel: In the episode "Ground State," Gwen Raiden not only uses her electrical powers to kill and then revive Gunn, she also manages to shock Angel's 200-plus-years-dead heart into beating temporarily.
  • In the MacGyver episode "The Enemy Within", Mac juryrigs a defibrillator out of two candlesticks, a floor mat, and an electrical power cord. The idea was not to reverse fibrillation, but to counteract some kind of magnetic field that was causing bubbles to form in the victim's blood... somehow. Whatever that meant, it worked.
  • In one episode of Holby City, the annoying new anaesthetist is messing around with the defibrillators while in surgery... and shocks himself. He dies, not that many of his colleagues mind too much. Being set in a hospital, there are plenty more boring versions of the Magical Defibrillator.
  • Averted in 24. Jack gets brought back, but at the end of the day he has trouble sniping due to heart pains.
  • Parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look; in a poorly-written medical drama written by a pair of lazy writers who can't be bothered doing the research, a doctor bursts into a theatre jabbering about how he's going to use "the electric paddles that can make you better if you're really sick but can make you sort of ill if you're fine!" Moments later, after giving the poor sod a fatal electric shock, he muses that the man "was fine, but is now poorly from too much electric."
  • NUMB3RS averts this altogether in the season 5 episode "The Fifth Man". While in the hospital, Don's heart goes into fibrillation, and the defibrillator is used to restore a normal rhythm. You can actually see the monitor displaying an erratic heartbeat. When he flatlines, they use a syringe filled with a drug to attempt to revive him, not the paddles.
  • In the Firefly episode "Ariel", Zoe uses a defibrillator to knock someone out when they break into a hospital. And that's a contrast to the previous scene, where Simon uses a defibrillator to save a patient who is suffering a heart seizure due to an accidental dosage of two drugs that negatively interact. In the latter incident it appears to be a case of a lack of heartbeat with no pumping, and the shock is used to restart the heartbeat, before a drug is introduced via intravenous injection to return the heart to normal.
  • During the opening of one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Jazz, Will's idiot best friend, stumbles upon a defib and applies it to himself. Cut to him being blown down the corridor.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles the titular character zaps herself with defibrillators in order to short out a tracer inside her breast, even asking from a doctor if it'll kill her before doing it. It should have stopped her heart temporarily, along with the tracer, but she's up and about in a couple of minutes, max.
  • An episode of M*A*S*H has Hunnicutt building a defibrillator from improvised parts after reading about the device being tested on dogs in a medical journal, though the episode has it used in a realistic fashion.
  • In an episode of Medium Lee is shot by the sheriff in a bathroom, and dies. His ghost meets the ghost of his brother, who ridicules him for finally dying. The doctors come in later with the defribillator, and guess who returns to life?
  • An episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had a killer getting a reprieve just as he's flat-lining during a lethal injection execution. They defibrillate him, and he recovers. No mention of all the chemicals still in his system.
    • He's given an injection as well as CPR prior to the defibrillation, which could be epi/atropine or something to counteract the potassium chloride used in the lethal injection. (Hyperkalemia is a reversible cause of asystole, and is treated with intravenous insulin, dextrose and calcium, give or take an amp of bicarb for acidosis).
  • An episode of Kamen Rider Double has a main character revive someone who is clinically dead (the plot depends on this fact) by issuing a sharp electric shock to their heart... with a sword.
  • In Eureka, while trapped in 1947, Allison revives a man using jumper cables hooked up to a car battery.
  • Star Trek series starting with Next Generation had their own Technobabble version of the Magical Defibrillator, the cortical stimulator, which are two little pads attached to the head. They even do the "clear!" and the body-jerking bits. Most memorable during the death of Tasha Yar, used from then on throughout the franchise.
    • They very nearly get it right in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in the Series 3 episode The Wire. Dr. Bashir tries a number of treatments in an attempt to stabilise the unconscious Garak. One of the treatments he tries is a cardio-stimulator in an attempt to get Garak's dysfunctional heartbeat back under control. His heartbeat does stabilise, but it doesn't magically bring him round or make his health problems go away. A body jerk does accompany the use of the stimulator, but it's a much more subdued and far less dramatic jerk than television usually insists upon.
    • They applied the cortical electrodes, but were unable to get a neural response from the patient...oops, wrong Sci Fi show.
  • Babylon 5 has a device that is, apparently, supposed to be a futuristic defibrillator. It looks like a ribcage and is attached to the stretcher. The patient jerks when jolted. However, no wires are shown being attached to the patient.
  • Royal Pains tries to play this more realistically. Hank must revive a woman who has just collapsed and does not have a pulse. He uses the ECG display of his portable defibrillator to see that she has an irregular heartbeat (ie not a flatline) and shocks her twice. When this does not work, he diagnoses that she has a condition where a defibrillator will not work so he administers a potassium injection instead to correct the heartbeat.
  • An episode of Small Wonder had Vicki (a Robot Girl) save a character from a heart attack by shocking him, leading to the immortal line "she jump-started Grandpa!"
  • Smallville episode "Fever", doctors defibrillate a flatlined patient. She dies.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Power of Three", the mysterious cubes send an electrical pulse that stops the hearts of people near them, including one of the Doctor's. Amy restarts the Doctor's one stopped heart with a defibrillator, and later the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to reprogram the cubes so they will restart everyone's heart, essentially Magically Defibrillating a third of the population of the planet by remote control. The victims have all been out for far too long to be revived, too, but the Doctor's magic takes care of that as well.
  • Emergency! had one of the earliest regular depictions of this device with the usual Jack Webb emphasis on realism. However, the producer did manage to get a more dramatic style to it with a different version that created a rising tonal sound as it charged up for a shock.
  • Played straight in Continuum, when doctors attempt to defibrillate a flatlined gunshot victim. Subverted when it fails. Double Subverted because he's a Super Soldier who apparently has one built-in, which does work.

     Roleplay 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The backgrounds to both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 have instances of the literal version of this, curiously enough both involving a sadistic fantasy version of an electric cattle-prod. In Warhammer the mad Skaven Master Moulder (chaotic ratman Doctor Frankenstein equivalent) Throt the Unclean used one of his clan's technomagical shock prods - usually used for herding mutant war-beasts into battle - to re-start the multiple hearts of the giant blindwyrm he was vivisecting when he created the very first Hell Pit Abomination. Presumably such measures were necessary in the creation of all or most of the rest.

    In Warhammer 40,000 the context is a bit more traditional. The ork painboy (medic) "Mad" Dok Grotsnik once had to be revived with a charge from an electrified "grot prod" (a tool used to herd unwilling gretchin underlings into battle) when his barely-competent gretchin orderlies were stitching him back together after an unfortunate "accident" arranged by his enemies. Suffice to say he wasn't known as "Mad" Dok Grotsnik before the procedure...

    Video Games 
  • In the games Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142, the defibrillator is a tool available for medics. It can revive the injured or kill enemies.
    • In both games the medics use the defibrillator as an instant cure from death. Unless you were blown up by a direct artillery hit, anti-tank (or anti-air) weapon, a C4 charge, or killed inside a vehicle, you will be revived by a shock with the pads, if a friendly medic can reach you within about 15 seconds after your fatal wound. Considering the pace of gameplay, probably an Acceptable Break from Reality.
    • Less appreciated are those medics who choose to teamkill you and immediately revive you. However, it is much faster than whipping out the medkit, and as is acknowledged by those in the med-tech field, whatever gets the job done.
    • Bad Company 2 also included the magical defibrillators, however all restrictions were now gone. If it was dead, an electrical shock would have it prancing about happily instantly. C4, 50 cal, rockets, tank shells, explosive helicopter crashes, nothing is beyond the fibs.
    • Defibrillators are back in Battlefield 3 but now they can't kill enemies (reliably). In an effort to stop medics from endlessly reviving you in a bad spot, the ability to opt out of a revive was added, meaning you can die and get revived, only to spontaneously die again.
  • Parodied in Warcraft III. If you click repeatedly on the Priest unit, it will eventually respond with a "Clear!" followed by the sound of an electric shock.
    • This was also a joke line is WC3's precursor, StarCraft. The medic said the line.
    • Now, in World of Warcraft, there are engineer-crafted items called Goblin Jumper Cables that can be used to attempt to revive dead players. With a good chance of instead failing and exploding.
  • Justified in Star Wars: Republic Commando. In it, the commandos can use what appear to be defibrillators shaped like guns to revive each other almost instantly and regardless of damage received or time incapacitated... however, dialogue reveals that what the paddles actually do is activate cybernetic implants that release bacta, the setting's miracle cure-all.
    • To add to that, the commandos are not killed after their health bar runs out, they are simply paralyzed and are unable to move. (Possibly a stun mechanism built into the armor to keep the commandos from dying like typical grunts.) You only die when all commandos are incapacitated.
  • The medkit in Half-Life's mod Sven-coop can revive teammates and other players for 50 Med points, and a quirk also allowed to revive players that were smashed/blown into pieces
  • In In FAMOUS, Cole's healing hands work a lot like Magic Defibrillators, complete with charge up and zap, and will bring anyone not-quite-dead back to life. Except when they're Killed By Plot, then it only brings them back long enough for a tearful last words.
  • In Saints Row 2, the ambulance missions allow you to use a defibrillator or CPR to revive people in car accidents. Once all missions are completed, the defibrillator is unlocked and can be used on anyone that you see outside of cinematics, including people suffering from headshots, severe burning, ingested explosives, katana impalement, etc. The magical properties of ambulances makes one wonder why you can't just use it when Aisha is beheaded, but perhaps that's where Zombie Carlos comes from (and explains why it wasn't used).
  • Enemy Territory Quake Wars has a defibrillator as a revive tool for downed allies and a one-hit-down for teammates and enemies. Acceptable Breaks from Reality It revives you with half health, recharges almost instantaneously, and requires no timing. Some people will shock you to down you and immediately revive you if you're noticeably below half health.
  • In the game Ever17, a defibrillator is used in a attempt to revive Sara, who had just drowned. Even disregarding the fact that the paddles are supposed to be applied to bare skin (a somewhat forgivable omission, as Ever 17 is one of the rare Visual Novels that doesn't hold an AO rating), the wisdom of attempting to send an electric current into somebody who is wearing wet clothing is truly to be questioned. (Although it did fail...)
    • This is remedied in the Xbox 360 remake, where in its version of said incident, the characters in question take off the other character's wet shirt first, then use the defibrillator on her bare skin. It still fails.
  • The Wii versions of Trauma Center sometimes have defibrillators used in operations. When the EKG/health meter begins to fibrillate, the player is supposed to stop operation and wait for it to pass, if it doesn't, the defibrillator is used. The sound effect implies that the player waits until the patient flat-lines before defibrillating, which is really too late, although this may just be a stylistic choice. If it is a situation where defibrillation is impossible (such as when the heart has bullets lodged in it), the heart is massaged by hand instead.
    • Under The Knife has one operation where's it's used correctly: while performing a valve replacement, the heart will periodically fibrillate. If it lasts for more than a few seconds, your assistant immediately shocks the patient. This causes a flatline, requiring you to perform a cardiac massage and restore pulse before continuing.
  • In zOMG!, the Defibrillate ring lets a player revive another player that has been dazed. The icon even includes an EKG heartline.
  • In Amateur Surgeon, you can use the car battery to restart the patient's heart, if it stops. The reason it stopped was probably because you used the car battery on it the first time, though; so death by excessive bleeding is can't be undone by the car battery.
    • That said, the most common use for the car battery? Zapping bugs.
  • Left 4 Dead 2, in keeping with their B-movie theme, has a defibrillator that can revive a dead Survivor from absolutely anything.
    • One of the more humorous applications can be seen in the opening stage of Dead Center. Grab a defib, jump off the right balcony, and plummet a dozen or so stories down, through a skylight no less, and die... several feet from the safe house. Your three teammates fight their way to the safe house, grab the defib you dropped, zap your shattered body back into working order, and you waltz into the safe room like nothing happened.
    • You can also revive your team mate if they get ripped to a bloody puddle by a Witch
      • Or if an airborne forklift hit them in the face.
    • It gets particularly ridiculous on the water covered levels, where you can shock someone back to life while completely submerged in water.
  • An MMO called Requiem: Bloodymare has items in the game called AED's. Automatic External Defibrillators. They work by ressurecting the player on location instead of at a designated spot.
  • Killzone 2 takes this to the point of a non-contact defibrillator that fires a stream of magic electricity at people.
  • In Tales of Rebirth, Annie asks Hilda to use her Thunder Force to revive a dead soldier, saying that "according to a research paper [she's] read, a person can be resuscitated after cardiac arrest if you apply a weak electrical current to the heart".
  • RAGE features a defibrillator that can not only revive your character from absolutely anything, but produces enough electricity to fatally electrocute nearby enemies. Even weirder, it's actually based on nanotech, so they could have used something that makes more sense, but chose to explicitly identify it as a defibrillator.
  • Nurse Valentine from Skullgirls has a special that can revive fallen teammates.
    • She can also use the same special as a powerful attack, and her snapback move to knock the current enemy away and bring their teammate in uses her defib paddles, too.
  • Averted in the intro for Afterlife. The defibrillator, referred to as the "electro-cardial stimulator" or, when the nurse is slow on the uptake, "the jumper cable, you fool!" does absolutely no good for the patient, despite liberal and increasingly frantic use.
  • Taken to the furthest possible extreme in Splinter Cell: Conviction's co-op mode. When Archer or Kestrel is incapacitated, the other character has a limited amount of time to get there and revive him with a defibrillator jolt. While said character is still conscious enough to cry out for help or even keep shooting.
  • Emergency! series: Doctors have these, and use them on patients on the brink of death. There is a very narrow window in which they can be used successfully, however; if a doctor is not on-site, the patient will probably die.
  • Wild Star has a high-tech version called Resonators, used by the Medics. While useful for reconstructing tissue and bone on the fly, it can also be useful for melting and liquefying said tissue and bone.

    Web Comics 
  • Boo tries to revive Largo with a hamster-sized set of paddles in this MegaTokyo comic.

    Web Original 
  • In the Gaia Online MMORPG zOMG!, the Defibrillate ring is used to revive "dazed" allies. Granted, this is Gaia Online we're talking about...
  • The writer of Polite Dissent ranks it at number 3 in his list of Top Five Most Common Comic Book Writer Medical Errors.
  • An 11points list discusses an instance of this trope, specifically mentioning that "no-one even yelled clear!"
    At this point I'm conditioned to believe that defibrillators are voice-activated.
  • Parodied in the Homestar Runner cartoon A Decemberween Mackerel, where Marzipan desperately tries to cheer up Senor Cardgage after being led to think he is dying. Just when it seems that his final moments are near, Strong Bad shows up and claims that the real means to revive him is to tear a few motor sports magazines in half and pour gravy on a defibrillator. This causes Senor Cardgage to miraculously recover.
    • An earlier Strong Bad e-mail had Strong Bad criticizing toys that come with cereal. When he comments on how one should avoid health-based products, he shows a defibrillator and sarcastically remarks "oh great, I can restart my heart if it stops."
  • Use of this in a video game for teammate revival is discussed in a Cracked article: 7 Video Game Healing Methods Least Likely to Actually Work

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Justice League, Hawkgirl uses her electrical mace this way. Although at least she just lays it gently on the victim's chest, instead of pushing down with it. That probably wouldn't have helped matters.
    • Batman: The Brave and the Bold pulls something similar when Black Lightning pulls a Heel-Face Turn and revives Wildcat after he has a heart attack.
      • Actually, in the latter case, it was done more realistically, as Katana tells Metamorpho to turn into oxygen for Wildcat to breathe and that they have to act quickly.
  • In Sealab 2021, Stormy tosses his high powered hair dryer to a swimming Quinn, shocking him. When Quinn regains consciousness, Stormy tries to revive him by shocking the pool with a defibrillator, knocking out Quinn again.
  • In Assy McGee Da Chief revives a clinically dead Assy by shocking him over and over.
  • Played for laughs in The Fairly Oddparents. Timmy is injured, and Cosmo poofs up a defibrillator. Off screen, we hear the machine charging up, lightning strike, and Cosmo screaming in pain, saying "I shocked myself!"
  • Used on Aelita in the Code Lyoko episode "Common Interest", when her heart stops beating because the Supercomputer's uranium battery is failing. They use the defibrillator on her, without gel, and leave her underwear on. It didn't work, and it took the Supercomputer turning back on to fix the problem. Then again, this is also the hospital that, in the same episode, let a known and extremely dangerous criminal stroll inside and kidnap a kid in broad daylight without so much as an objection. Clearly they're just grossly incompetent.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer does this at the beginning of "Homer the Moe" after he attempts to dig a hole with Bart and tires out after only a few seconds.
    Homer: This thing pays for itself.
    • Played straight in another instance, where Dr. Nick Riviera attempts to prevent a discombobulated Grandpa from going into "skin failure" by ripping an electrical cord out of the wall and sticking it down his throat to induce "transdental electromicide." Unusually enough for Dr. Nick, it works.
  • Humorous use on Dexter's Laboratory . Dexter is experimenting on himself to try and give himself superpowers. In a Shout-Out to Spider-Man, he irradiates a spider so he can be bitten by it. Unfortunately, he kills it, and has to bring it back to life via a tiny spider-sized set of defibrillator paddles.
  • This was only inverted in Invader Zim because the titular character Zim used a time machine to replace the paddles with a pair of rubber pigs. This ultimately results in Dib's skeleton being crushed.
  • Played 100% for laughs in a short on Tiny Toon Adventures. Plucky fakes sick, but it turns out Elmyra is acting as a nurse. At one point he plays dead, prompting Elmyra to pull out a defibrillator, and put the paddles on either side of his head! She even said "Clear!"
  • In the Family Guy episode "Big Man on Hippocampus", when Quagmire is unable to get an erection, he uses a defibrillator on... himself. For whatever reason, it doesn't help.
    • A Cutaway Gag from "The Son Also Draws" has Peter doing this on someone. When the guy thanks Peter for saving his life, Peter does it again and kills him.
  • In The Venture Bros., Dr Girlfriend uses a pair of defibrillators on the monarch to keep him alive. She then lampshades how ridiculously cheesy the whole scene was immediately afterwards, "I can't believe I actually said clear!"
  • On Futurama, Zoidberg is trying to kill Professor Farnsworth (he was dying of a horrible disease and wanted to be put out of his misery). One of his attempts is to pull out some wires from a fuse box and electrocute him, but then Farnsworth dies of a heart attack and Zoidberg puts the wires back. After he leaves, the wires fall out and shock the professor back to life.
  • In South Park, in "Imaginationland", it's subverted - even though it's South Park. Asystole is not present, Kyle only jerks slightly when it's applied, and CPR is used as well between shocks. Resuscitation doesn't work without both, and oxygen is applied.

    Real Life 
  • As mentioned in the article header, asystole is not a shockable rhythm.
    • Synchronized cardioversion refers to a specialized mode in which the device analyzes the heart rhythm and delivers a countershock at a precise interval to stop a tachydysrhythmia, such as supraventricular or atrial tachycardia. It may use similar equipment, but is never referred to as defibrillation, and is rarely done outside a hospital setting and never with an automated device.
    • The correct treatment for cardiac emergencies is different depending on whether the heart rate is fast or slow/nonexistent. Tachycardic (fast) rhythms get drugs and/or shocks (cardioversion), followed by more drugs to stabilize the converted rhythm. Bradycardic (slow) rhythms, asystole (flatline) and pulseless electrical activity (a subset of asystole where the heart is generating electrical signals but the muscle isn't pumping) get drugs and possibly a trial of an external pacemaker. Both get deep, rib-cracking chest compressions. At least since 1990, no one has advocated intracardiac injections of anything.
  • Paddles are very rarely used these days. In most modern healthcare settings, flexible, sticky pads are used instead; they deliver a much more predictable current and don't require a human operator pressing them against the chest wall (and risking a shock if he/she accidentally touches the patient). If paddles are in use, the operator will have to apply conductive gel to them first, to provide even transmission of the shock. Whether pads or paddles are used, they will be placed on the right upper and left lower side of the ribcage. After the system analyzes the heart rhythm (a so-called "quick look" ECG), a shock is applied to the heart. You're not supposed to touch the paddles after putting them on; putting yourself (with your own, hopefully working heart rhythm) in the system's electrical path can either cause a false reading or expose you to the same shock as the patient. Hence, a human operator will yell "Clear!" (and an AED will offer a pre-recorded "Shock Advised - Charging - Stand Clear" warning) to make everyone get out of physical contact with the machine and patient.
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support recommends making eye contact with team members before shocking to ensure they all clear.
    • Not everyone present will necessarily hear the AED's "Stand Clear" warning. Rescuers are trained to repeat the warning in a loud voice, visually scan the patient's body to ensure that no one is touching him or her (and re-state the warning while physically moving any offending individuals), and sometimes to hold their arms outstretched above the patient's body (without touching the patient) to visually communicate the warning and provide a slight physical barrier to approach as well.
    • Rescuers are also trained to remove any jewelry or metal (such as under-wire brassieres) before administering a shock. The common myth that such things will kill a patient if exposed to defibrillators is therefore not applicable due to this.
  • The defibrillator is older than CPR! CPR was invented in 1957. Defibrillation was first tested in 1899, and was first used on humans in 1947. But defibrillators would not become field medicine until the 1960s when the move from AC to DC defibrillation made portable units possible. More effective biphasic defibrillators were invented in the late 1980s.
    • The modern hospital-grade defibrillator is probably the closest thing you'll find to a Do-Anything Robot in healthcare. These devices can, depending on settings, act as a basic defibrillator (you can choose either AED-type automated or manual control), a synchronized cardioversion system, a portable ECG monitor, and/or an external pacemaker. They'll even tell you whether your current rhythm is shockable or not, and will keep track of when you last gave drugs during a code and tell you when to give the next round. Field and transport cardiac monitor/defibrillators also have built-in blood pressure and pulse oximetry monitoring, and can also read information from invasive monitors, giving real-time data on cardiac output, blood pressure, intracranial pressure, and end tidal CO2. They become ICU-in-a-box.
  • The portable defibrillators installed in most public places include a heart monitor that will not give a shock unless the heart is detected to be in a fibrillation condition, due to the pervasiveness of this trope (and to prevent some very dangerous practical jokes).
    • Subversion: It is actually possible to coax an AED or Semi-Automatic Defibrillator into shocking a rhythm that is not pulseless Ventricular Tachycardia or Ventricular Fibrillation, by rapidly shaking them while it's analyzing. The artifact from the movement overwhelms the heart's electrical tracing on the electrodes, and fools the software analyzing it. It's why in BLS for the Healthcare Provider, EMS personel are advised to pull over before analyzing a rhythm. An experienced Paramedic on a manual defibrillator, on the other hand, can differentiate this.
  • When the doctors say "Clear!" it's supposed to mean "Stand back", so that nobody else is touching the patient or close enough to get shocked. But some writers just seem to take this as meaning there is no heartbeat and say it only after the first attempt and checking the pulse.


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