If you’re injured during surgery or another medical procedure, you can be reasonably sure that one of your health professionals may have been responsible. With technology advancing rapidly every day, however, what happens if your surgery was performed by a machine? If you’re injured during a robotic surgery or procedure, who is responsible? Can you bring legal action? What are your rights as a patient?
These are the questions the medical community is currently debating.
Medical technology is constantly evolving
Artificial intelligence (AI) offers a great deal of promise to the medical and health industries. Robots and machines are objective, neutral, and incapable of human errors. Many hospitals already use robotics of some sort to assist surgeons with various procedures and operations. However, as technology continues to advance, some experts believe that eventually robots may be able to perform some surgeries better than the surgeons themselves.
For example, researchers at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England have been testing an AI system on cardiology patients. Early results indicate that the artificial intelligence is capable of meeting or exceeding the performance of cardiologists in identifying heart attack risk based on chest scans. Results of the study have not yet been published but, if confirmed, the NHS will make it available free of charge to hospitals across the United Kingdom.
Other AI medical systems under development include one designed to test skin cancer, one to identify a certain eye condition that causes vision loss in children around the world, and one that recognizes specific types of lung cancers.
When medical tech malfunctions, who is liable?
There is no argument that these advances are incredible. However, we also know that sometimes technology can make mistakes – devices can malfunction, software can become infected, or systems may have programming errors. Who is responsible for ensuring these mistakes don’t occur? Who is liable if they do?
In current malpractice law, hospitals are liable when their employees cause injury. And even though robots and AI aren’t exactly “employees,” typically in malpractice cases, the hospitals and the manufacturer or owner of the robot are named. Then the court decides who is at fault. Your malpractice attorney can explain your patient rights to you in detail.
It’s important to remember that currently, doctors and health professionals use AI systems as a complement to their medical opinion, as an aide – not a replacement for knowledge or training. Medical professionals who use them improperly or unethically could also be held liable for any injuries to their patients.
Even using robots and AI technology, it’s impossible to remove the human element from medical care. For example, a patient doesn’t disclose (or is aware of) an allergy to a certain antibiotic, the AI prescribes it, and the patient has a reaction. The AI can’t be held liable, as it couldn’t have known about the allergy.
Or, perhaps an AI has a defect, like a bad line of code or a mechanical mistake. If this defect causes harm to a patient, the programmer or manufacturer could be held liable.
Every medical malpractice case is different. If you or a loved one were injured due to medical negligence, the lawyers at Crandall & Pera Law can help. Call us in Ohio or Kentucky and tell us about your case today. Please call 877-686-8879, or fill out our contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation.