Doctor in Gaza Prints $5 Stethoscope

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Palestinian-Canadian physician Tarek Loubani and his team successfully printed the stethoscope at a store in Gaza City, where their 3D printer was assembled locally. Their $5 version is vastly cheaper than the $150 standard stethoscope but has even better sound quality, according to audio-frequency tests.

As my colleague Olga has written:

Things made with 3D-printers tend to fall into two broad categories: one is silly bordering on useless—incredibly detailed chess pieces, a mug that looks surprised, a mask that looks like Tom Hanks, what have you. The other is live-saving bordering on from the future, like the idea that we might soon have 3D-printed organs.

Loubani’s stethoscope definitely belongs in the latter category. He originally decided to find a way to produce low-cost, high-quality medical equipment following the 2012 Israeli invasion of Gaza. While stationed at Gaza City’s main hospital, he had no access to stethoscopes and resorted to holding his ear to the chest of his patients.

Soon after, Loubani founded the Glia project, an open-source collective where a team of coders and doctors worked together to create the 3-D-printed stethoscope. They picked that device for printing because it’s so ubiquitous and relatively pricey. Next on their to-do list is an electrocardiogram and a pulse oximeter that monitors blood oxygen levels—other costly machines that every doctor should have in their arsenal.