The New York Times recently ran an article on advances in robotic surgery (“The Robot Will See You Now—Real scalpels, artificial intelligence—what could go wrong?” by Cade Metz, April 30, 2021)
The piece described how surgeons normally perform robotic surgery by sitting at a computer console across the operating room from the patient moving and manipulating handles. But now, computer researchers and doctors are working together on technology that would fully automate surgery just like self-driving cars.
According to the Times article, robots already exceed human accuracy on many aspects of surgery, such as placing a pin in a bone. “The hope is that automated robots can bring greater accuracy to other tasks, like incisions or suturing, and reduce the risks that come with overworked surgeons.”
The technology has a long way to go, and human input and oversight will always be necessary. However, the potential exists for doctors to simply watch as robots perform most surgical skills. In addition, surgeries could be performed from much greater distance than just across the operating room.
As the article suggests, things could go wrong. What if they do? Who is to blame and who might be accountable? It is plausible that computer glitches could be responsible for surgical mishaps. Understanding the computer technology underlying the robotic surgical function will be the key to helping clients in need.
In short, as technology advances, solving our clients' problems becomes more complex.
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