U.S. PIRG’s “Right-to-Repair” position is Ill-considered and anti-patient

According to the U.S. PIRG, “Manufacturers of ventilators, dialysis machines and other critical medical devices routinely restrict access to essential repair materials. That leaves hospital repair technicians, commonly known as biomeds, without the tools they need to fix medical equipment as soon as it breaks. Instead, they have to wait days, weeks or even a month for a manufacturer-branded technician to travel onsite and make the repair well within the biomed’s capabilities. In the meantime, that broken ventilator can’t be used to deliver life-saving treatment to a patient.”

As my grandmother used to say, “A half-truth is a whole lie.”

At first glance, “Right-to-Repair seems like a good idea. Why not make it easier for consumers to fix their broken electronics, without having to pay a costly sum to the original manufacturer? But, as HL Mencken reminds us, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” The reality is that Right-to -Repair presents many dangerous unintended consequences. The Number One problem is that it compromises patient safety.

The core of Right-to-Repair laws is to require innovative technology companies to make product repair information, replacement parts, and tools readily available to consumers and third-party repair shops. Should that be the case for devices such as Automated External Defibrillators and hospital ventilators? What about electrocardiograph (ECG) machines? Can physicians and patients be confident in non-FDA compliant vendors without the advanced training and technical ability to properly repair and recalibrate life-saving machines? Who could argue that “anyone can do it?”

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