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Who's responsible when robotic surgery goes wrong?

Experience matters. You might be able to get an inexpensive hairstyle that's good enough by putting yourself in the hands of a salon school student. To have greater confidence in the outcome, though, you are more likely to seek out a stylist with years in the business and demonstrated ability. You'll pay more, but you'll have greater peace of mind. 

That approach might work OK when it comes to hair, but not so much when it comes to having other parts of the body cut. We suspect that anyone in the Fayetteville area who is facing the prospect of a surgical procedure would be inclined to seek out the doctor with the longest and best record of success for any particular operation.

Health care quality experts regularly recommend doing that kind of research ahead of a procedure as a way of reducing the risk of medical errors due to negligent practice.

Not only do we expect our doctor to know what he or she is doing because of training and experience, but if a piece of new technology is thrown into the mix we expect the doctor has been properly certified in its use. 

Unfortunately, according to a review out of the University of Michigan, that's hard to be sure of when it comes to robotic surgical systems. They're still very new and the researchers have found that there are no clear standards for becoming certified on the devices. Just because a surgeon has decades of experience in the operating room doesn't mean he or she knows the ins and outs of robotic technique.

The UM researchers say the credentialing standards issue is a liability blind spot that has been thrown into the spotlight as a result of a recent malpractice case. In that decision, the court ruled that a plaintiff who had suffered a string of complications after robotic surgery couldn't sue the maker of the device. The ruling effectively said you can't blame the machine, only the human operator and the hospital that allowed its use.

The message out of all this is, patient beware. If you are being pitched on the benefits of robotic surgery, ask questions about the procedure and the skill of the operator before agreeing to go under the knife.

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Who's responsible when robotic surgery goes wrong? | Britton Law, P.A.