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Innovation and Skepticism

In the face of technological innovation, medical professionals must navigate a rapidly-changing environment regarding patient care. Doctors and surgeons have many treatment options at their disposal. In 2000, the first robotic surgical system, the da Vinci robot, was manufactured by Intuitive Surgical. This technological advancement provided doctors with yet another method with which to treat their patients. Many doctors enjoy using the da Vinci robot because it allows them to perform with ease and precision while saving their energy. However, some doctors are more critical of the robot-assisted surgeries, preferring to perform traditional laparoscopic surgeries.

Critics of robot-assisted surgeries claim that the robot can’t detect and navigate the patients’ tissue with as much clarity and discernment as the surgeon alone. Doctors and surgeons have long since been accepting of medical and technological innovation as they prescribe patients pharmaceuticals and send digestive-tracking cameras through intestines. However, many doctors and researchers are concerned that reports about robot-assisted surgeries render the technology too risky to use on patients. Though the vast majority of robot-assisted surgeries are performed successfully, critics argue that traditional surgeries can be performed just as successfully and with fewer margins for patient risk. Typically, researchers will find useful trends within medical reports, but researchers are having a difficult time drawing conclusions from robot-assisted surgery injury reports.

In an interview with the New York Times, Doctor Martin Makary explained “we have this haphazard smattering of reports that relies on voluntary self-reporting with no oversight, no enforcement and no consequences.” This lack of methodical reporting isn’t useful in helping Intuitive Surgical refine the da Vinci robotic system, nor is it effective in helping surgeons know how to better treat their patients.