Medicine and modern technology come together more and more as the years pass. One result of this trend is the growing number of life-saving implantable medical devices in use. Devices such as implantable automatic defibrillators (IADs) and pacemakers, insulin pumps, pain control devices, and more all rely on digital controls to offer their life-saving benefits. Hospitals are filling up with high-tech digital equipment as well, using computer-controlled equipment to aid in both imaging and treatment of disease.
There’s a real problem with all of this high-tech hardware, though, and a risk that’s only just now starting to be discussed: as computerized equipment becomes a standard part of health care, digital security becomes a huge concern. Can medical devices be hacked and cause harm or even kill patients?
Medical Device Hacking
Many digital medical devices are now capable of communicating in ways that were hardly more than science fiction a couple of decades ago. Some devices allow doctors to perform remote monitoring of device and patient health, or even let doctors or technicians adjust settings that can dramatically affect the way the device works, all without requiring an office visit. Some devices allow this wirelessly, while other devices can be connected to a computer via wires and controlled that way. All of this access has provided greater opportunities for care, enhancing quality of life and even saving more lives than ever before.
However, the medical device industry has given little attention to digital security—something any computer professional will tell you is of vital importance. And the threat is real enough to be taken seriously in some quarters: it was of enough concern that when former Vice-President Dick Cheney had a pacemaker installed in 2007, the pacemaker’s built-in wireless connection was disabled as a security measure to prevent hackers from threatening his life.
Hospital computer systems aren’t immune, either. Recently bad actors in the digital world have targeted health care systems with computer viruses, holding entire hospitals hostage in exchange for expensive ransoms. Such infiltrations could potentially filter down to any medical device used by a patient, too, if that device interacts with the hospital’s infected networks—a very likely occurrence if doctors are using the medical devices to their full capability.
The Risks of Hacked Medical Devices
The biggest concern is that if a medical device is hacked, it may stop functioning as intended. For example, an insulin pump may no longer deliver the right dosage, or a doctor may no longer be able to remotely monitor a pacemaker or other device. A particularly malicious hacker may even cause the device to malfunction in an intentionally way, delivering a dangerous dose or a lethal shock. It may one day be possible for a hacker to try and hold your health data for ransom, as well—or even your health itself.
The FDA is paying attention to the potential problems with medical devices, though, and has begun issuing guidelines for manufacturers to follow about the way medical devices interconnect and communicate, in an effort to increase security, safety, and patient care as more devices become digitally connected. However, these guidelines are new, and research continues into how new and existing medical devices could be hacked.
Liability for Hacked Medical Devices
If a patient suffers harm from a hacked medical device, he or she may have legal grounds to file a lawsuit. If it can be shown that the injury occurred due to a manufacturing defect, faulty design, or that the device manufacturer knew that the device was flawed but released it anyway, the company could face serious legal consequences if a patient (or surviving family members) file a lawsuit seeking damages.
Legal Help for Defective Medical Devices
Many other medical devices of all kinds, not just the digital ones, suffer from dangerous defects and flaws that hurt patients. Hip and knee replacements, hernia mesh products, and other kinds of devices have all faced recalls and lawsuits as patients seek compensation for harm caused by these faulty products.
If you or a loved one have suffered harm due to a defective medical device, you are not alone. Wayne Wright LLP believes in standing up for the rights of those who have been injured by faulty or defective medical devices, and we’re here to help you and your family get the justice that you deserve in a court of law. For a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced legal professional, contact us by phone, send an email with our contact form, or click the live chat box on our website right now.