Tests by Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute cardiologist Gurjit Singh, M.D., and his colleagues find that the magnet in the iPhone 12 can deactivate implantable cardiac devices switches that respond to an external magnet to change how the device functions, reports NBC25.
For a defibrillator, a magnet can be used to turn the device off. For a pacemaker, a strong magnet can make the device deliver electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat out of sync, which can bring about a potentially lethal condition called ventricular fibrillation.
In order to test their concerns, Singh and his colleagues took an iPhone 12 Pro and passed it over the chest of a patient with an implantable defibrillator.
“When we brought the iPhone close to the patient’s chest the defibrillator was deactivated,” Singh told NBC25. “We saw on the external defibrillator programmer that the functions of the device were suspended and remained suspended. When we took the phone away from the patient’s chest, the defibrillator immediately returned to its normal function …. We had assumed that the magnet would be too weak in a phone to trip the defibrillator’s magnetic switch.”
He added: “We believe our findings have profound implications on a large scale for the people who live daily with these devices, who without thinking, will place their phone in their shirt pocket or upper pocket or their coat – not knowing that it can cause their defibrillator or pacemaker to function in a way that could potentially be lethal.”