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Robotic surgery raises new malpractice questions

Surgery patients in New York and around the country may soon have their procedures performed with minimal human intervention. Researchers at a District of Columbia children's hospital have demonstrated that robotic surgeons could perform delicate operations with even more efficacy in some cases than their human counterparts. Experts note that robots have already been used to help humans perform critical surgical tasks, but the researchers say this is a push towards having traditional doctors provide care in new ways.

The study, which involved a bowel operation performed on a pig, demonstrated that with supervision, the robot was able to successfully complete surgical maneuvers in soft tissue. The machine, stitched the bowel together in an open surgery. One of the proponents of the work said that the technique might help the medical profession establish better standards and practices as well as eliminate the need to wait for specific surgeons.

Researchers say the use of robots could eliminate human error and reduce mistakes. The project's lead doctor, however, admitted that the device still requires refinement and could potentially commit errors of its own. Other medical professionals noted that the technology may falter when it comes to dealing with situations it hasn't been programmed to handle.

As robots and other novel forms of technology fulfill broader roles in medicine, the kinds of dangers patients will be exposed to may also change. These machines are still tools that require proper handling and intervention, so mistakes like performing the wrong surgery might yet occur due to improper diagnoses or negligent procedural oversight. Those who have harmed in such a manner may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to see whether seeking damages would be advisable.

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