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Class-action lawsuit claims the Apple Watch's blood oxygen sensor is racially biased

Thursday, December 29, 2022

A class-action lawsuit claims the Apple Watch's blood oxygen sensor is racially biased against people with dark skin tones.

Alex Morales is suing Apple for "false and misleading representations" of a wearable feature purporting to measure blood oxygen levels.

The New York-based plaintiff, who was aware of the pulse oximetry feature when purchasing the wearable between 2020 and 2021, said he expected it to work without regard to skin tone.

"For decades, there have been reports that such devices were significantly less accurate in measuring blood oxygen levels based on skin color," the suit says. "The 'real world significance' of this bias lay unaddressed until the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, which converged with a greater awareness of structural racism which exists in many aspects of society.

"Reliance on pulse oximetry to triage patients and adjust supplemental oxygen levels" could place Black patients at increased risk for hypoxemia, or low blood oxygen, the suit adds. A December 2020 report from the University of Michigan Medical School concurred, suggesting that "Black patients had nearly three times the frequency of occult hypoxemia that was not detected by pulse oximetry as white patients."

Morales filed the lawsuit on Dec. 24 on behalf of New York consumers, as well as residents of Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming under the states' consumer fraud laws.

The lawsuit also accuses Apple of breaches of express warranty, fraud, and unjust enrichment, claiming violations of New York General Business Law and State Consumer Fraud Acts.

"Since health care recommendations are based on readings of their blood oxygen levels, white patients are more able to obtain care than those with darker skin when faced with equally low blood oxygenation," the lawsuit claims.

By: DocMemory
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