While robots assist surgeons during procedures today, they are merely an extension of the humans in the room. However, new technology may allow autonomous robotic devices to actively assist and make decisions during a procedure. A demonstration by surgeons at a District of Columbia hospital showed that an automated robotic device could stitch together a pig’s bowel while supervised by humans. This is important because soft tissue can move, which is makes it harder to operate on.
While robots have been used to cut through bone, the solid surface makes a steady and easy target to operate on. Each year, there are approximately 45,000 soft tissue surgeries, and medical errors may be the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Therefore, reducing the rate of human error could save lives and generally improve patient outcomes. Despite this, there are some objections raised as it relates to a robot conducting a surgery.
For instance, it is uncertain what may happen if a complication occurs during a procedure. While a human may be able to deal with the problem, a robot may be less able to do so. Those who are involved in developing automated technology in a surgical setting say that surgeons will still assist. However, it is also noted that technological advances may be pointless if they don’t ultimately replace human surgeons.
Surgical errors can range from leaving a sponge inside of a patient’s body after the procedure has been completed to operating on the wrong limb. When these types of obvious medical mistakes occur, an attorney for an injured victim might be able to obtain a fair settlement from the hospital’s insurer without having to take the case to trial.