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Risk Management for Medical Devices: How Many Deaths Are We Willing To Accept?

Updated: Feb 7

There is more and more feedback from the field that there are problems with product approvals – due to insufficiently justified risk acceptance thresholds.

The reason?

Companies are addressing the question "How many deaths are we willing to accept?" with the pi-by-thumb rule rather than using scientifically sound data.

Our expert Bernhard Lindner, MSc explains why this is problematic and how acceptance limits should be determined correctly.

Risk Management for Medical Devices

How You Should NOT Determine Risk Acceptance Limits in Medical Device Risk Management

The specifications for the severity of the damage, as well as for the probability of occurrence, are often taken from chapter 5.5 of ISO/TR 24971:2020.

To determine how many damages may occur per year, it is simply asked how much damage the management is willing to accept.

This approach leads to the acceptance limits being more or less arbitrary, not based on sound data, and not corresponding to reality. Thus, this approach to determining acceptance limits is not suitable as a tool in in medical device risk management.

Medical Device Risk Management: How to Determine Suitable Risk Acceptance Limits

To define reliable acceptance limits, you must justify why specific harm of a severity category is accepted by society on average from a particular occurrence (under certain conditions). This average social acceptance must be determined from well-founded data. It indicates how much damage we as a society are willing to accept in connection with medical devices.

Why Average Societal Acceptance?

Each person has a different personal risk acceptance limit. The acceptance limit of a family father may be much lower than that of an extreme sports athlete. People in different cultures and social or political systems will have different acceptance limits. It is even demonstrable that the acceptance of harm caused by two products can be different. These effects are offset by determining an average risk acceptance.

Conclusion: Medical Device Risk Management

The key to justifiable risk acceptance limits in risk management for medical devices is determining the average societal acceptance of harms associated with the specific medical device or group of medical devices.

Bernhard Lindner | Experte Risikomanagement

Avoid problems and associated delays in product approval for your medical devices! Our expert Bernhard Lindner will be happy to answer your questions about Medical Device Risk Management.

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