Philips accused of manslaughter in France over respirator

Dutch medical technology firm Philips has been accused of involuntary manslaughter in a complaint filed in France over faulty sleep respirators, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said on Friday.

More than 200 people filed a complaint on Thursday, accusing the company of deceptive business practices, endangering the lives of others and administering harmful substances, said lawyer Christophe Leguevaques.

Three of the plaintiffs are accusing Philips of involuntary manslaughter, Leguevaques said.

They are the first to file complaints in an investigation that was launched by Paris prosecutors in June 2022, he said.

Philips told AFP it was doing “everything to restore trust with all stakeholders” and would continue to work closely with the authorities.

In 2021, Philips issued a global recall of the devices, which help people suffering from sleep apnoea, a disorder in which breathing stops and starts during sleep.

The company said sound-dampening foam in the machines could degrade, causing people to inhale or swallow pieces of the foam with “possible toxic and carcinogenic effects”.

Earlier this year, Philips said subsequent testing showed that exposure to the foam “is unlikely to result in an appreciable harm to health in patients” but US authorities have yet to confirm the conclusions.

The French complaints were accompanied by a report by the head of France’s national research institute for agriculture, food and the environment (INRAE).

According to Leguevaques, who commissioned the report, it “completely contradicts Philips’ reassuring statements”.

Philips has cut 10,000 jobs worldwide since the recall. The company posted a loss of 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion) last year and set aside 575 million euros for potential lawsuits in the United States.

It said at the end of April it had repaired 98 percent of the machines of French clients concerned by the recall.

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