Saturday, October 15, 2005

Surgical Robots Open Legal Gash

The use of robots to assist in surgery has opened legal debates and raised questions about their benefits.

Some former patients and families of deceased patients are claiming that the surgeon did not give them the choice of opting out of the new robotic procedures. The were injured by the use of the robot.

Promoters of the robots, specifically the daVinci robot from Intuitive Surgical, claim significant benefits from the use of the robots. Further, many doctors say, which tools they choose to use for surgery are not always discussed with their patients. In an article in the Maryland Daily Record, Dr. Mark A. Talamini, a proponent of the daVinci robot, says:
“This to me is a different set of surgical instruments, so we are not doing a different operation; it’s not a new operation; it’s not a different procedure; it’s not an experimental procedure; it’s simply a different set of tools to accomplish the same operation,” he said. “So if I was in the operating room and I had a pair of scissors and I decided, you know, that the scissors aren’t working for me, I am gonna use a knife instead, I wouldn’t ask permission to use a knife instead of the scissors, I would just use them.”

Other medical professionals disagree. Surgical techniques that were honed in medical shcool are not readily transferrable to robot assisted surgery.

Others question whether the claims that robot surgery is safer and leaves less damage are always true. It has also been reported that robot assisted surgery can take longer than laparoscopic techniques.

Hospitals though are pressuring doctors to use the robots because of the high cost of purchasing and maintaining the equipment. The Daily Record article reports that the robots cost $1.3 million with an additional ten percent of that price annually for maintenence.

While the technology for surgical robots may be advancing quickly, the acceptance of them may not be growing so fast. A warm welcome is not guaranteed for robots in many situations.

Technology raises questions of informed consent
Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer


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