The news love affair with robotic surgery – even simulators

We’ve written before about some of the headlines praising robotic surgery:

• Robot doctor – surgery of tomorrow

• Da Vinci puts magical touch on the prostate

• Cancer survivors meet lifesaving surgical robot

• Robotic surgeon’s hands never tremble

• Da Vinci is code for faster recovery

• Surgical Maestro


e67cf064-e7e3-4997-bd49-2d127b463a00_mn.jpg Now even the news that a company is testing a couple of robotic-surgery-training-simulators “and expects the units to go on sale for about $100,000 by early 2011” makes news.

The AP reported it
(this is their photo at left of the news conference) and the story was picked up by ABC, CNBC, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.

Granted, a simulator that might help train docs in what seems to be the inevitable spread of this technology might be an important quality/safety improvement.

But the AP story that spread across the country didn’t mention any concerns about the medical arms race involving robotic devices, nor any questions about evidence.

• Hold news conference.

• Demonstrate gizmo.

• Get nationwide news.

How easy it can be to get free publicity, without ever having people focus on some of the important policy questions at stake. But after this week, who cares about health care policy, anyway?

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Stephanie Jewett, RN, MBA

February 27, 2010 at 7:51 am

Robotic surgery – unbelievable! I was an OR private scrub nurse for years for a world renowned plastic surgeon – interesting indeed! Very good site – I happened to get here this a.m. just looking for further, interesting medicl blogs. I’ll be back. Stepanie

Bill Gleason

February 28, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, simulate?\

Walter Lipman

March 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm

And what, pray tell, happens when the experience of the medical practitioner with this special purpose computer mirrors that of all of those geniuses on Wall Street who wrote algorithms for the trading of securities backed by sub-prime mortgages?
I don’t know about you, but my experience with computers is that they are obsessively stupid and literal-minded: they can do only what they’re told to do. They are notably bad when put in the position of having to do decision-making…and isn’t the hallmark of a talented surgeon the executive ability to make correct decisions with rapidity?
When you hook something up to a logic processor, you start to forget that it’s just a tool; this is something done at your own peril…when one’s patients share that peril, it’s time to draw a boldfaced line.