Robotic Surgeon Creeps Us Out

​A recent "breakthrough" in modern technology and contemporary medicine may be a sign that machines will eventually overtake humans and control the world.

A robot at Canada's McGill University Health Centre recently performed the world's first all-robotic surgical procedure, a prostatectomy. Real-life doctors controlled the Da Vinci Si robodoc from a high-tech workstation. Even the anesthesia was induced via robot, implying that the last image the patient saw resembled that of a scene from an alien horror flick.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success, but the patient is probably wondering what the follow-up visit will be like. Unless robots are programmed to communicate as effectively as Rosie, the space-age housekeeper from The Jetsons, we think the idea of going under the knife sans an in-room doctor is a bit impersonal.

Call us old fashioned, but we like when the anesthesiologist tells us to drowsily count backwards from ten, or knowing that if we go into cardiac arrest in the middle of surgery, a team of talented individuals will do whatever it takes to stabilize the situation not just because they're supposed to, but because it's human instinct.

"Robots will not replace doctors," assures Dr. A Aprikian, chief urologist at MUHC, "but help them perform to the highest standards."

He also admits that the technology is far from perfect. "Obviously, there is still some work needed to perfect the all-robotic approach -- from technical aspects to space requirements for the robots."

Look, we're all for advancing medicine and tinkering with really cool machines, but it was bad enough when doctors switched to automated answering services and the doctor/patient relationship became highly impersonal. Robots make good housekeepers and factory assembly-line workers, but we're not sure about letting them make incisions on us. A faulty wire, and your guts could be spilled on the operation room floor.

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