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1997-07-15 00:00:00


Medical Equipment Could Shut Down, Permanently



Jeff Jinnett, a lawyer specializing in y2k litigation, testified on July 10 before the Subcommittee of Financial Services and Technology of the Senate Banking Committee regarding the y2k problems. One of these is] the problem of noncompliant chips. Specifically, he mentioned chips in medical treatment.

"As an example of how a non-compliant microcontroller might seriously cause an item of non-computer equipment to malfunction, consider an item of medical equipment in a hospital emergency room which measures the flow of blood or plasma into a patient. The microcontroller in this hypothetical medical equipment keeps track of when the equipment was last calibrated and automatically shuts the equipment down as unsafe if it is not calibrated on schedule. If the microcontroller is not Year 2000 compliant, on January 1, 2000 it might compare "00" to the date of last calibration (say, June 1, 1999, or "99") and miscalculate that 99 years had passed since the last calibration, shutting down the equipment" (p. 2).

No, the machine would not shut off in the middle of a procedure. But once it is turned off, it cannot be started until the defective chip is replaced. But what if it can't be replaced? What if the banks are down? What if the original manufacturer is bankrupted by litigation? That machine becomes nothing but scrap metal unless the chip can be replaced.


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