Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Medical Terrorism

Maybe the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle got too easy for Dr. William Maisel.

Fishing about for another amusement, Dr. Maisel from Harvard Medical School, stumbled upon another corporate vulnerability and decided to hire some engineers to hack defibrillator wireless transmissions.

I mean fun is fun, right?

Just think of the buzz sitting before all of those AP press interviews. I wonder if he fancies himself the David taking on the Goliaths. And what better way, than to terrorize the general population who have already had the misfortune of having an implantable cardiac defibrillator installed:
Dr. Maisel and his collaborators -- Kevin Fu of the University of Massachusetts, and Tadayoshi Kohno of the University of Washington, both computer-science professors (editor's note: and co-authors) -- emphasized that the findings are as yet limited to one model of defibrillator made by Medtronic. They informed the Food and Drug Administration last month, they said.
And then the press, in their ever sensationalist effort to find the next health care safety crisis, lept to interview computer scientists who proclaimed, “I find it absolutely terrifying, the idea of having a computer-controlled devices implanted in us.”

Amazing. A computer scientist who’s never been asked to confront his mortality or and heart-related issue becomes the latest spokesperson for our next cardiovascular public safety nightmare. Lets leave medical terrorism to the nightly news and the tabloids. But I guess it's too much to ask the Wall Street Journal to exercise some restraint.


But then again, safety Nazis aren’t on the front line of patient care, are they?

Why doesn’t the press interview a few people who’s lives have been saved, time and time again, by these devices? Why don’t we hear about the constant monitoring these wireless transmissions permit to ASSURE the patient’s safety and well-being as impedance monitoring is performed automatically each night?

No, we’ll never hear about this. We’ll only hear about death, destruction, and chaos.

After all, medical terrorism sells.


12 Mar 2008 1310 PM CST Addendum: The link to the paper as reported by the now widely publicized, self-aggrandizing "Medical Device Security Center."


Anonymous said...

Well said! Thank you for putting the sensationalism of the defibrillator-hacking news into perspective. Big-time media warehouses all-too-often exercise a stunning (and growing?) lack of discretion and propriety. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I assume these devices do still help people right? Not just evoke terror in patients. "Brand new ICD designed to feed the media and scare the hell out of your patients" Coming soon!!!


Dr. Deb said...

Didn't know about this story!!

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this blog - found it through "Medical Hotdish." I am in full agreement with you, Wes. While it is certainly important to have an honest and open discussion of the benefits and risks of various medical options, the coverage of this story is NOT an example of open and honest discussion! What a shame that this kind of story gets so much attention and distortion....