Heart Machine Crashes Mid-Procedure Because It Was Busy Checking Itself for Viruses

Heart Machine Crashes Mid-Procedure Because It Was Busy Checking Itself for Viruses
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The worst time to see the Black Screen of Death — when its arrival could actually kill you. 

A Merge Hemo medical machine — used to monitor, measure and record data during a heart catheter procedure — went dark in the middle of a cardiac catheterization, according to a Food and Drug Administration report. It turns out the heart machine was too busy checking itself for malware to simultaneously monitor the human; the report indicates its anti-malware software was undergoing hourly deep scans. The human was sedated, the machine rebooted in about five minutes and the procedure was completed. 

That is not a reassuring tale in light of our increasingly automated future. This Internet of Medical Things doesn't just include the aforementioned cardiac catheter machine, it can also include implantable devices like a pacemaker or a brain implant — devices that will more surely kill you if they needed five minutes to reboot. Devices that have also been proven hackable.

The dreaded Merge Hemo black screen turned out to be a human's fault, and not a machine defect. According to the report, someone wasn't following instructions during the anti-virus software installation. Still, whether it's human error, malicious intent or the machines striking back, it's unsettling to know that a routine malware scan or a glitch could be your cause of death.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Melanie Ehrenkranz

Melanie is a writer covering technology and the future. She can be reached at melanie@mic.com.

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