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Hamilton moves to make EpiPens available in eateries

00:00 / 20:41

Hamilton moves to make EpiPens available in eateries 20:41

After becoming the first city in Canada to move towards putting EpiPens in public food courts and restaurants last October, the first batch of the auto-injectors have arrived at Jackson Square mall in Hamilton.

The pen-like disposable needles with an emergency dose of the hormone epinephrine are used to treat severe allergic reactions. Council moved to make them publicly available to every restaurant in the city after a 12-year-old Stoney Creek girl died in a Burlington mall from anaphylactic shock in March of 2013. 

Council looked to see if the average person would be legally protected if they used an auto-injector, like EpiPen or Allerject, to try and save a life. With the green light from the city's lawyers and general protection under the Good Samaritans Act, council moved to approve a pilot project, set to begin Monday Sept. 8 at the Jackson Square mall food court. 

In announcing the project's launch, the City of Hamilton said the mall's security guards "have been trained to identify the symptoms and signs of an anaphylactic reaction (the most serious form of an allergic reaction), and when and how to use an epinephrine auto-injector."

The city also said the partners of the pilot project include Anaphylaxis Canada, McMaster University, the Rotary Club of Ancaster AM, First Real Properties Limited and the security firm in Jackson Square. 

Last October, in examining the legality around the average person administering the auto-injector, Bernard Dickens, a retired professor of health law and policy at the University of Toronto, said much like defribulators in sports arenas, they're meant to save lives and not create legal problems. 

“The law encourages rescue in that situation by protecting the rescuer,” Dickens said in October. “The EpiPen seems to fall into the same place.”

The pilot project will last a year, aiming to study the effectiveness of a public EpiPen to prevent fatal anaphylaxis by using the emergency dose of epinephrine. 

The preventive move comes at a time when anaphylactic shock deaths are decreasing in Ontario. Between 1986 and 2011, 82 peopled died from anaphylactic shock in Ontario. Of those deaths, 63 came from before the year 2000.

There was a similar declining number of food allergy deaths in recent years — there were two deaths between 2003-11, while there were 32 deaths between 1986-2000.