Product Liability

iPhone 12 Pros are discovered to stop implanted defibrillators from working and may cause pacemakers to malfunction, putting countless at risk

March 2, 2021

Recently, a study has found that iPhone 12 Pros, and other newer iPhone models, can cause implanted defibrillators to stop working due to the strong magnets placed inside the phones, putting those with defibrillators and pacemakers at serious risk of injury or death.

Dr. Joshua Greenberg, a heart rhythm fellow at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, recently started studying and testing how his iPhone 12 Pro affected some of the cardiac defibrillators used in his patients. Particularly, Dr. Greenburg was interested in whether the strong magnets used in the iPhone 12 Pro and other current models could create irregular rhythms in defibrillators.

"When I first was reading about the new iPhone, they said the magnet was so strong, you could actually attach it to your refrigerator," said Greenberg. "I'm thinking, you know, if this thing's strong enough to attach to a refrigerator ... I wonder what it would do to a potential device?"[1]

The magnets, which help the iPhone 12 Pro charge rapidly, can deactivate implanted cardiovascular defibrillators, said Greenberg, alongside a group of cardiologists at the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute who tested the effect of the magnets with Dr. Greenberg.

When specialists held Greenberg's telephone up to their patient’s chest, the defibrillator was deactivated. Dr. Gurjit Singh, who led the research, clarified that a defibrillator is designed to deliver an electric shock to the heart if the patient’s heart begins to beat out of rhythm.

Unfortunately, these devices are also given a magnetic safety switch that automatically turns off the device to protect the patient’s heart from being shocked from a strong magnetic pulse. Like defibrillators, pacemakers can also be affected by a magnetic pulse and can cause pacemakers to force a healthy heart to beat asynchronously (beat out of a natural rhythm).

Greenberg and Singh were among the specialists who wrote on the issue in a letter to the editor published in the medical journal HeartRhythm, calling it "an important public health issue concerning the newer-generation iPhone 12, which potentially can inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient, particularly when the phone is carried in an upper chest pocket."[2]

Following the letter to the editor, Apple released a statement that advised its users of the potential risks the magnets pose from the iPhone 12 Pro, along with the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and any Magsafe accessories. The tech giant suggested that those who may be a risk should keep those products at least 6 inches away from any medical device, and at least a foot away when the phone is wirelessly charging.

Up until this point, Singh said, the cardiologists have just tried the iPhone 12 Pro on one patient with an embedded defibrillator. Henry Ford has yet to test the phone close to any patients with pacemakers due to the potential harm it may cause to the patient. Dr. Singh did clarify that they “are in the process of getting approvals and conducting a study,” and will be “testing the pacemakers, as well as other defibrillators."[3]In addition to the studies lead by Dr. Singh and Dr. Greenberg, the FDA announced that they will conduct their own independent test on the phones to ensure the safety of consumers.

While there are still countless tests to be run and studies to be conducted on the matter, the initial results are alarming. It is still unclear how easily these phones will affect defibrillators, pacemakers, and other implanted medical devices. We will continue to monitor the research as more information comes forward, as well as keeping you updated on any legal actions that may be taken against Apple.

References:

[1]https://www.freep.com/story/news/health/2021/02/03/apple-iphone-12-pacemakers-defibrillators/4382911001/

[2]https://www.heartrhythmjournal.com/article/S1547-5271(20)31227-3/fulltext

[3]https://www.freep.com/story/news/health/2021/02/03/apple-iphone-12-pacemakers-defibrillators/4382911001/

Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter to receive important legal updates and class action refund opportunities delivered straight to your inbox.