Hospital That 3D Printed Critical Respirator Valves For COVID-19 Patients Now Faces Potential Lawsuit

coronavirus lungs

The coronavirus/COVID-19 epidemic may have started in China, but it has spread to most of the world at this point. One of the hardest-hit countries in the world is Italy. Italian healthcare providers are fighting a company that is putting profit ahead of saving lives. A hospital in Brescia in northern Italy was in desperate need of special valves that are required in breathing equipment needed to keep COVID-19 patients in the ICU alive. The problem was the manufacturer was unable to provide the required valves because of increased demand.

Knowing that being unable to secure the parts through normal channels meant people could die, doctors and tech experts in the city set about looking for a 3D printer capable of creating the valves for themselves. A pharmaceutical company in the region had a 3D printer and took it to the hospital in an attempt to help out. The first roadblock that the group came up against is that the manufacturer of the critical valve refused to share the 3D file needed to create the valve using the 3D printer.

Unfortunately, that's not all the manufacturer of the critical valve did to prevent the volunteers from 3D printing the valves and attempting to save lives. The company also threatened to sue volunteers for patent infringement if they tried to create the valve themselves. With lives at stake, the pharmaceutical executive created a 3D file from scratch to build the critical valve, starting with a production run of 10. The valve worked, even though it said to be much less durable and not reusable like the real thing.

Another interesting aspect of the 3D printed valve was its cost. Staff isn't concerned about the durability issues because it cost them only one dollar per valve to create the critical item. The manufacturer, who holds a patent on the item, sells the valve for about $11,000 each. It's unclear if the manufacturer of the valve will make good on its threat and sue the volunteers at this time, but it seems like it would be a PR disaster. Likewise, the hospital isn't sharing the 3D file needed to create the valve with other health care providers due to the existing threat of legal action from the manufacturer.

In other Italian coronavirus news, quarantined gamers are playing so much Fortnite in the country that Italian internet connectivity is struggling to support the load.