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Medical malpractice: Who to sue for errors by robotic surgeons

Research and testing of utilizing artificial intelligence in various medical fields are moving at a rapid pace. Researchers and scientists want to reassure those who fear a takeover by robots, saying that the goal is to expand the abilities of a physician rather than to replace humans with machines. However, these developments may leave some New York residents with questions about errors and medical malpractice.

Surgical robots have been used for about two decades, and although research and development are ongoing, records now exist of cases in which errors occurred. FDA data analysis revealed that 1391 injuries and 144 deaths of patients were recorded in the first decade of using surgical robots -- mostly due to device malfunctions and technical difficulties. It was determined that the most serious errors occurred during the most complicated surgical cases such as cardiothoracic surgery, rather than in general surgical procedures and gynecology.

Apparently, the conclusion is that robotic surgeons will be used in some more common procedures. However, their human counterparts will continue to control those procedures that are more complex -- at least until further development. In the meantime, there is the question about whom to hold responsible for errors.

Can a surgical robot be sued? Currently, medical malpractice cases are based on a doctor's failure to provide care of an acceptable standard, thereby resulting in negligence. Will the overseeing human surgeon be responsible or the manufacturer or designer of the robotic surgeon? These are still gray areas, and the most logical step for any New York patient who is suffering the consequences of errors made by robotic doctors might be to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. A lawyer can assess the circumstances and suggest the most appropriate way to proceed.

Source: futurism.com, "Your Future Doctor May Not be Human. This Is the Rise of AI in Medicine.", Abby Norman, Jan. 31, 2018

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