What's up, robot?

Would you like your doctor to be a machine? I am wary about the first ever heart rhythm operation performed by a remote-controlled robot.

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?


  1. FV
    So far the more I see machines taking over Human stuff, the more I get freaked out.

    I believe we should all go back to medieval times , relax and chill out more without these bogus machines.

    Yes, I will prefer to do all my stuff myself rather than asking a robot to do it for me.....


  2. well, if we went back to medieval times, let us recall that there was no cure for anything that we cure with antibiotics nowadays. The usual prescription given by a doctor to a patient was "a course of leeches". The "theory" was that all these diseases were because of "bad blood", and so leeches drain all the bad blood. All it would do was weaken an already week patient, though the leech-farm industry was doing roaring business during tough times in the dark ages.

  3. Robots are very far from doing anything humans can do, and yet companies find is a profitable investment to create these things. IMO, robots seem to be the 21-st century replacement for slaves. "Bring the slippers. hop on one leg. make a fool of yourself. sweep the floor. Cut the grass. poke yourself in the eye" are all orders a robot would do without questioning, just like slaves used to (with threats of death hanging over their heads if they refuse).

  4. Circle:

    I am more concerned about how the human might become a machine after getting used to these...


    Good points. Why did they not use vampires instead of leeches?

    Robots as slaves is better than demeaning people, but it does reveal a mindset that wants to play master.

    PS: I still like the idea of men carrying the shopping bags, though!

  5. FV: "I still like the idea of men carrying the shopping bags, though!"

    I nowadays think these shopping-baggers are robots of a different sort :-P

  6. FV:"Why did they not use vampires instead of leeches? "

    Because, as you know, there is bad blood between humans and vampires -- the vampires turned out to be competitors to the leeches when it came to human blood.

  7. ...shoppers are robots too...
    ...you think leeches used their contacts to get the blood contract?

  8. Here's a link to the robot heart surgery:


  9. FV:"you think leeches used their contacts to get the blood contract?"

    This is a factish thing, I kid you not: Insider sources with contacts in the leech world talk of highly-priced and rare "blood-flavour supari" that is fed to the leeches before executing a contract, literally.

    (Definition from the Universal Dictionary for the Amateur Space Traveler)
    factish: looks like a fact, smells like a fact, and walks like fact, but is in fact, not a fact.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.