Right to Repair

Five State Treasurers Demand the Right to Repair from Ventilator Makers

We’re adding more repair manuals and step-by-step guides to our Medical Devices section every day, with the help of biomedical technicians and volunteers.

Today the treasurers of Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Delaware, and Rhode Island asked ventilator manufacturers to release key service information hospitals need to maintain their equipment. Their joint statement demands manufacturers “release all service manuals, service keys, and schematics during this crisis, enabling hospitals to make repairs to ventilator and maximize their supply and ability to serve more COVID-19 patients.”

Medical manufacturers had already taken some steps to open access to information. Medtronic shared the service manual, schematics, design files, and source code for the Puritan Bennet 560 online. But the service manual for Puritan Bennet’s popular PB 980 is still not available. GE has opened access to user manuals for some medical equipment, but not service documentation.

To speed access to critical repair information, iFixit last month started collecting and sharing service manuals for essential medical equipment. With the help of our community, biomedical professionals, and a team of volunteer librarians from over one hundred universities, we have sourced and posted over 500 ventilator service manuals made by 58 companies and over 900 service manuals and technical service bulletins for anesthesia machines. We are also working to add other high priority equipment including aspirators, CPAP machines, dialysis equipment, air abrasion and filtration, and hospital beds.

“Having enough ventilators to care for critically ill patients is vital,” said Delaware State Treasurer Colleen Davis. “If the ventilators malfunction and operators don’t have manuals on how to make repairs, the results could be tragic.”

The status quo, where biomedical technicians have inconsistent access to service information, is unacceptable. In an investigation released yesterday, Reason’s Paul Detrick found that “during the COVID-19 pandemic, [biomedical technicians] have turned especially often to this decentralized information-sharing network to repair essential hospital equipment. But they’ve been using it for years, trading information on Reddit, Facebook, and websites like MedWrench and DotMed.”

Last week, the US Public Interest Research Group delivered a petition with 43,000 signatures to 25 different manufacturers asking them to release needed service information.

“These ventilators are a matter of life or death for people fighting COVID-19,” Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said. “With a national shortage of ventilators, it is incomprehensible that these life-saving devices are sitting in hospitals across the country waiting to be fixed. Today, I call on ventilator manufacturers to step up and help hospitals address these desperately needed ventilator repairs.”

Biomedical technicians need a central resource to access service information. iFixit stands ready to help manufacturers meet this need. We are organizing and hosting this information at no cost. We are posting hundreds of new files every day for other critical hospital equipment. Manufacturers with service manuals to share can either upload them to iFixit directly or email them to biomed@ifixit.com.

“Every resource must be made available to fight this pandemic,” said Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “To protect public health, manufacturers must make ventilator repair manuals publicly available, as soon as possible. The information could save lives.”