Dr Andre Ng, cardiologist at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital, sat outside the operation theatre as his 70-year-old patient’s vital organ was manipulated to get his irregular rhythm back to normal. The doctor felt in “complete control” and could see and speak to the staff who were with the patient.
As a report says:
The main advantage is that the doctor doesn’t have to wear heavy radiation shields such as lead aprons, which are normally required in the operating room because X-rays are used to see inside the patient.
“Because I was sitting down in a relaxed, not having to wear a heavy lead coat, it was actually a pleasurable experience.”
I have read reports earlier about how patients prefer robot medics to unfamiliar doctors. That is different. It is more like scouring the web for information.
Science has progressed, but is technical progress enough? Doctors anyway use high-tech equipment; laser surgery has made it possible for a small incision to extract huge tumours. I do not understand the need to remove the person from the process.
It might well be asked that the patient is under sedation so s/he would not be aware of the doctor’s presence or absence. True. Yet, we need to ask a few questions:
Is the patient told prior to the surgery that it would be a robotic operation?
If something goes wrong, and our dear doctor is sitting relaxed outside, then who will rectify the situation, who will shoulder the blame? How long will it take the doc to wear his fancy superman suit and get into the OT? And if this is touted as a remote operation, then what is the big deal about other staff being inside? It only proves that human assistance will be crucial at all times.
I am seriously concerned about the possibility of this being done in cities far removed. The manner in which medical science is seen and acted upon by different cultures differs. How will a doctor in the UK liaise with the team in, say, India? What about the ego problems between the two? Again, who will accept blame for any goof-ups?
It is bad enough the way ‘specialisation’ has been promoted, but this truly is taking it too far. If robots must be used, it could be to teach doctors, to be used as guinea pigs for experiments, not to become the masters.
Has anyone given a thought to the psychological ramifications? How will the patient be affected before and after?
I understand that robots have been trained in bedside manners too in other cases. This really amounts to making the patient feel like a machine. I like my doctors with a warm touch and a smile, not some automaton advise me in a disjointed voice that I need a pill. He wouldn’t know if I just need to chill, would he?