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Coding blamed for machine failures


3 July, 2008  

A mistake in computer coding and not poor design might be the reason why some medical equipment fails to function, according to a study.

The latest equipment is now advanced enough to remove the need for doctors and nurses to watch for machine errors, but this can result in small glitches growing into big problems.

In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established a forensic software department to look into the rise in cases of medical equipment recalls related to software problems.

The department includes mathematicians, computer scientists and a physicist. Over the course of its investigations, it found that 23 medical equipment recalls considered life-threatening involved software problems.

Larry Kessler, director of the FDA Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories, said: “The world of technology is allowing us to do things we never thought possible, and it’s largely a great advance.”

But he added: “Where it gets to be scary is, we used to have more human intervention. With software doing more now, we need to have a lower tolerance for mistakes.”

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