Can Your Medical Devices Testify Against You in Court?

PacemakerAccording to a judge in Ohio: yes, they can.

A man was charged with aggravated arson and insurance fraud, but claimed that he made an effort to save some possessions and flee his burning home. A cardiologist reviewed the man's pacemaker device and concluded that what he described doing was improbable. While the man's defense attorney argued the data should be thrown out, the judge allowed it. This may not set a precedent for Chicago, but advancements in medical technology will make similar situations and questions of law more common.

Ohio Arson and the Pacemaker with a Lot to Say

A 59-year-old man in Middletown, Ohio, was charged with setting his own house on fire in 2016. He pled not guilty to aggravated arson and insurance fraud charges following his arrest. According to the man, when he noticed the fire, he threw some belongings out a window and then carried them to his car. A cardiologist reviewed data from his pacemaker, however, and said that his claims were highly unlikely. His attorney argued the search of data violated his client's constitutional rights, but the judge disagreed and has allowed the pacemaker’s data to be used in court.

Does This Impact Chicago?

Ultimately, this might not have much impact on cases in Chicago, since it only sets precedent for law in Ohio. In fact, the ruling could be argued again in an appeal, depending on the results of his trial, which could bring the issue up a second time and change the precedent. But a precedent is a precedent—other states may consider it if this sort of issue arises again.

What Does This Mean for Defendants?

If these kinds of rulings become widespread, they will open the door for far more intrusive investigations and evidence gathering. Technological advancements have made medical devices "smarter" and more complex than ever before. These devices are implanted into a person, and the idea that data from them is not private is startling.

Should data from an internal medical device be considered private and personal? What about questions regarding doctor–patient confidentiality, and what people expect in terms of medical record privacy?

As police push to use “stranger” evidence against those charged with crimes, the need for an experienced defense attorney is greater than ever before. Call Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today at (312) 644-0444 for the defense you deserve.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : October 18, 2019