NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine -

New York Times “Novelties” story ramps up robotic hype

A journalist wrote me: “Ack! Another rah rah rah robotic surgery article, this time in the Times.”

The blogging surgeon known as the Skeptical Scalpel tweeted:

ICYMI. Robotic surgery puff piece in the NY Times.

What draws their ire?

A New York Times piece, “When Robotic Surgery Leaves Just a Scratch.”

It discusses some new robotic surgery approaches, including in children.  It’s interesting.  It clearly offers some potential.

But the story includes no data, no evidence of efficacy.  Just generic, fawning, unquestioning promotion, either from the words of the writer or from quotes from true-believer-surgeons – such as:

  • His patients generally go home a day or two after surgery, he said, “but I think they would recover more quickly if I could reduce my multiple incisions to just one,” he said. “And there will be less scarring, or even no scarring, if you enter through the navel.”
  • “We surgeons love using the robot.”
  • “We may get to the point where we do outpatient, scarless robotic surgery.”

Finally, toward the end, the story states:

Robotic systems, though, have yet to show that they are always worth the extra money they cost.

That cost, as the story explains, is  $1.3 million to $2.2 million with potentially $60,000 or more for the “add-on” device featured.

Gee, it might be nice to attach some data to that kind of price tag and to the claims above.  Or doesn’t the Grey Lady consider that news that’s “fit to print”?

Just go to the Skeptical Scalpel’s blog and enter “robotic surgery” in the search box to see some of the evidence questions one might raise.

You might also like


Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Walter Lipman

November 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

From the Skeptical Scalpel’s blog, this gem: