Cell phones are forbidden in a lot of hospitals because they interfere with the medical instruments. I've found studies that prove both that it's dangerous and both that it's not:

These researches seem to contradict each other. So are there any known cases where people were hurt by someone using a cellphone in a hospital? And if there is, why are microwave ovens, radio/tv signals, wifi signals OK?

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    When I was working in the hospital they often said the rule was to help in peace and quiet as much as anything else :)
    – NotJarvis
    Aug 27, 2011 at 20:14
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    Seems it is a "Potential" problem...fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/…
    – Moab
    Aug 28, 2011 at 2:13
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    Snopes info...snopes.com/horrors/techno/hospital.asp
    – Moab
    Aug 28, 2011 at 2:15
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    Hospitals often sell phone-service to astronomical costs. And sell the roof of their building to telcos, to place their antennas, which work with much higher energies than your small device, at least, if your device is some meters from the device to interfere with away. Aug 28, 2011 at 13:58
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    @user unknown: A microwave transceiver on the rooftop is a permanent installation that doesn't move so it is more predictable (and measures can be taken to install shielding or upgrade equipment where needed). People using handheld cellular phones, on the other hand, do exhibit movement due to walking around, using elevators, or just moving their heads or switching ears while sitting still. Regardless of the Hospital's reasons, if they have a rule about not using cellular phones (or smoking, for example) in the hallways, then adhering to these rules clearly is the preferred choice. Aug 28, 2011 at 17:01

2 Answers 2


The FDA in the USa says there are "potential" risks with Pacemakers and Defibrillators

Interference with Pacemakers and Other Medical Devices

Potential interference:

Radiofrequency energy (RF) from cell phones can interact with some electronic devices. This type of interference is called electromagnetic interference (EMI). For this reason, FDA helped develop a detailed test method to measure EMI of implanted cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators from cell phones. This test method is now part of a standard sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). This standard will allow manufacturers to ensure that cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators are safe from cell phone EMI.

FDA continues to monitor the use of cell phones for possible interactions with other medical devices. Should harmful interference be found to occur, FDA will conduct testing to assess the interference and work to resolve the problem.

Precautions for pacemaker wearers If EMI were to occur, it could affect a pacemaker in one of three ways: Stopping the pacemaker from delivering the stimulating pulses that regulate the heart's rhythm

Causing the pacemaker to deliver the pulses irregularly

Causing the pacemaker to ignore the heart's own rhythm and deliver pulses at a fixed rate

But based on current research, cell phones would not seem to pose a significant health problem for the vast majority of pacemaker wearers. Still, people with pacemakers may want to take some simple precautions to be sure that their cell phones don't cause a problem. Hold the phone to the ear opposite the side of the body where the pacemaker is implanted to add some extra distance between the pacemaker and the phone Avoid placing a turned-on phone next to the pacemaker implant (e.g. don’t carry the phone in a shirt or jacket pocket directly over the pacemaker)

Related Links

Electromagnetic Compatibility

Source of Information

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    They (the FDA) also discourages cellular phone use by children (yet they also state that there are no known health risks for children using cellular phones). Aug 28, 2011 at 18:53

The UK Department of Health guidance was changed a couple of years ago to discourage hospital-wide bans for which there was never really any justification. The major worries are not electromagnetic interference but privacy and basic electrical safety (or even: what happens if patients unplug essential equipment to charge their phones?)

Overall conclusion:

The working presumption should be that patients will be allowed the widest possible use of mobile phones in hospitals, including on wards, where the local risk assessment indicates that such use would not represent a threat to patients’ own safety or that of others, the operation of electrically sensitive medical devices in critical care situations and the levels of privacy and dignity that must be the hallmark of all NHS care.

The report does record a handful of example of possible interference with devices, but few can be attributed with certainty to a mobile phone and several probably require a faulty medical device for phone interference to be a problem.

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    That's a great reference. It would be good to quote some passages from it; especially to support your claims about the major worries. I notice it does say "The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) does not advise that NHS trusts should operate a hospital-wide ban but has said that in certain circumstances the electromagnetic interference from mobile phones can interfere with some devices, particularly if used within 2 metres of such devices. It has issued a number of reference documents relating to this" (references included)
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:20

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