Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Man Files Lawsuit After Metal Detector Disrupts Pacemaker

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jun 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

A pacemaker is an important medical device for people who experience abnormal heart conditions. The device uses an electrical impulse to regulate a person's heart beat. Many people with pacemakers have either weak hearts or conditions that prevent the heart from functioning fully or effectively. These conditions can lead to weakness, fainting, and in extreme circumstances possibly even death.

Pacemakers currently sit in the hearts of nearly 3 million people worldwide. A number that is only increasing, as nearly 600,000 people receive pacemaker implants per year. However, a study from the United Kingdom reports that in the UK alone, there were over 2,400 reports of “adverse incidents,” sometimes resulting in deaths from pacemaker malfunctions. People with pacemakers must take certain cautions to ensure that nothing interferes with the device. If the device were to slow or stop, the person's heart would slow or return to a dangerous or irregular rate as well. One particular precaution that most people with pacemakers take is to avoid metal detectors, as the electromagnetic field can interfere with the pacemaker's functions. In one case, one woman tragically lost her life after passing through an airport's metal detector. The metal detector caused her pacemaker to stop, and she died at the airport.

For one man in Pittsburgh, a security guard's metal detector came slightly too close for comfort, although luckily he has since recovered.

Pittsburgh Pacemaker Predicament

Vince Kelly was entering the Pittsburgh Municipal Court, when, like any visitor, he was asked to undergo the court's brief security screening. Kelly informed the guards at the court that he had a pacemaker and had to be screened separately to prevent the electromagnetic field from disrupting his pacemaker. In keeping with security protocol, Kelly was screened with a metal-detector wand, which could be used in lieu of a full detector screening.

The guard conducting the screening ended up waving the wand too close to Kelly's chest, and caused his pacemaker to malfunction. The malfunction resulted in Kelly falling over and losing consciousness. Kelly has since filed a lawsuit against the court, Allegheny County and Victor Security, who was under the county's employ. The lawsuit claims that the security company was negligent in the staffing and training of its guards, and also claims that both the city and county were negligent in their hiring of them. No comment has been made by the city or county, and the damages sought are unspecified at this time.

Although it is common knowledge for a person with a pacemaker to avoid any electronic interference with the device running their heartbeat, it is not always known to those in charge of potentially deadly security screening devices. Incidents like these could easily be avoided with greater care.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of someone else's negligence, contact Gilman & Bedigian today.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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