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Family challenges use of robot as medical malpractice

The dependence on technology reaches into just about every aspect of life. People tend to put a lot of faith in machines, as though they are infallible. But technology comes with glitches, and a family in an out-of-state case believes that the untimely loss of their loved one is partly due to a problem with technology that's meant to assist in surgery. 

The family has sued a doctor as well as the company behind a robotic surgery device. Their loved one went under surgery for his prostate gland and ultimately died years later in connection with supposed complications with the procedure. A court is now left to decide whether it was negligence on behalf of just the surgeon that caused the victim his suffering or whether the device manufacturer is also to blame. 

According to the lawsuit, the company that sells the device pushes the sales and premature use of the robot by doctors. It alleges that the training recommended for using the robot is not enough to result in safe surgeries and, therefore, the patient at the center of the negligence suit sustained injuries because the company prioritized sales over safety.

In response to that allegation, the company argues that the surgeon should have known better than to have proceeded with a robot-assisted surgery. The patient was reportedly not an ideal candidate for the use of the device; the surgeon should have recognized that and gone with the standard operating procedure.

While this surgical error case has become a sort of dispute between the doctor and the robot manufacturer, there is a family left dealing with the death of their loved one. Their best interests, as well as the best interests of the community and public safety must remain at the center of the court's final ruling.

Source: Bloomberg, "Intuitive Robotic Surgery Case Goes to Seattle-Area Jury," Patrick Guthrie and Joel Rosenblatt, May 21, 2013

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