Of all the things to worry about, an Italian engineer who voluntarily 3D-printed valves used to save the lives of coronavirus patients may have to worry about a lawsuit, according to several local news outlets. Although no specific legal action or plaintiff has been revealed in media reports, Cristian Fracassi, a volunteer in the life-saving effort, told the news site TPI Sunday he has “lawyers who are evaluating the matter.” The situation unfolded when the Chiari Hospital in the Brescia area of northern Italy sent out a media plea for a specific type of valve used to treat coronavirus patients. The hospital had run out of the essential devices amid a public health crisis. Italy has reported more than 2,500 deaths resulting from the coronavirus and more than 31,500 cases overall, according to Al Jazeera.
So physicist Massimo Temporelli, founder of the Italian manufacturing company FabLab, responded to the hospital’s plea and collaborated with engineers from the Italian startup Isinnova, according to Business Insider. The volunteers, which include Isinnova's Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli, were able to produce replicas of the roughly-$11,000 devices for $1, according to the technology blog Techdirt. “There were people in danger of life, and we acted. Period,” Fracassi said on Facebook. Not everyone, however, looked at the effort that reportedly saved at least 10 lives favorably. Manufacturers of the valves have refused to share their blueprints for production and “could potentially sue for copyright breaches,” according to the British newspaper Metro.
When TPI asked Fracassi if he could “run into a legal problem” related to his work, he said, “Yes, the valve manufacturer could sue me for plagiarism, because in fact their piece was copied and replicated. I copied a piece.” The altruistic engineer said he is trying not to think about that possibility. “I am not dealing with it personally because I prefer to devote myself to this (3D designs),” Fracassi told TPI. Although he said he wants to see the situation resolved, he admitted, “in a world where money matters more than someone’s health, nothing else can be done.”
Fracassi opened up in a Facebook post about the situation on Sunday: “First of all, it's true: we received a phone call, we were told that the hospital in Chiari there were missing the breathing valves and people were dying. The ordinary route, that of supply of series pieces was not practicable for a simple reason of time. What were we supposed to do? “
More from Fracassi’s Facebook post, which was translated to English:
You know in movies when someone is about to fall into the ravine? Usually at that moment the protagonist comes along and throws him a rope, but this rope slides... and time runs. We don't believe that at that moment there are many questions about whether the rope is in accordance with or that it belongs to others. At that moment you only think about saving those who are falling. Then once you're safe, with panting and adrenaline dropping, you can reason.
Well, we found ourselves in that situation. There were people in danger of life, and we acted. Period.
Now, with a cold mind, let's think.
Firstly, don't call us, as some have, heroes. Sure, people were about to die, but we only did our duty. Refusing would not have been a cowardly act, but murderous. Far from us.
Don't call us, like some have, geniuses. Genius is such Venturi, who identified the physical principle that we only applied, as any other engineer would have. There is no genius in the piece everyone is talking about, there is only application of a physical principle.
But now let us also silence words that are flying beyond our intentions, and beyond our control: we have no intention of profit on this situation, we are not going to use the designs or product beyond the strict need for us forced to act, we are not going to spread the drawing. But not only: in this time when public opinion is very sensitive, please do not throw yourself at anyone. If we acted quickly it's only because with 3 d printers you can quickly try a small production which would be impossible on the industrial scale. Finally, let us also say that certain figures we see turning are not true: we do not want to go into detail, because the cost of a piece is not that of the weight of a plastic pile: professional time come into play , costs of materials, energy etc. I mean, the cost is something complex, but let us keep the secret, and don't know the right what the left does.
We simply want this story to remain only one thing: the community, made of a hospital, a newspaper, a team of professionals, made a race against time and saved lives. That's it.
The rest - rights, certifications, costs and controversy - should shut up in the face of the undeniable superiority of the sacrosanct right to life. If you don't share don't ask us, but to the people who - thank goodness - are still breathing.
Thank you all for the support anyway. You have written me so many, over 2000 I believe, I don't know if I can read everything and thank everyone. Let's focus on the real heroes, those who save lives, who work 16 hours of hospital shifts and are day and night next to the sick and praise them. A big thank you.
The effort earned Fracassi and his team a social media nod of approval from Paola Pisano, Italy's minister of technological innovation. She tweeted a message that translates to: “Congratulations to Cristian Fracassi, @temporelli73 and all the people who helped him in the business of 3D printing the missing valves for the respirators of the Chiari Hospital in Brescia.”