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Heart surgery brought to a halt by defective medical device

Advancements in the field of medical care have brought computers and other advanced forms of technology into hospitals, creating opportunities for newer and better treatment options. While these changes have undoubtedly made it easier to fight certain illnesses, most people in California understand just how frustrating computers can be. Malfunctioning software can turn an otherwise functional tool into a defective medical device.

Heart surgery can be a dangerous undertaking, and the Merge Hemo device is supposed to make the procedure safer by supervising the tubes that are inserted into a patient's arteries and veins. Like most technology, the device runs software on a computer, visualizing the data for attending doctors. A Feb. 2016 heart surgery was ground to a sudden and unexpected halt when that software malfunctioned.

The incident is currently blamed on a piece of anti-virus software. An anti-virus scan began to run during the surgery, leading to the malfunction that ultimately resulted in the computer crashing. The heart surgery was suspended for a full five minutes while staff scrambled to reboot the computer and bring the Merge Hemo software back up.

This is far from the first time that a hospital has faced problems due to technology. One California hospital had all of its computer networks hacked and held hostage for a virtual ransom, while an out-of-state facility had to temporarily shift back to paper records following a cyberattack. Although technology is certainly not without its issues, a defective medical device can be the difference between life and death for some patients, making the safety of these devices paramount. Manufacturers who fail to account for possible software and technological problems can be held accountable for their negligence, typically through a products liability suit filed by an affected victim.

Source:, "Heart surgery stalled for nearly 5 mins as anti-virus scan crashes computers", May 6, 2016

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