Should we put robots on trial?

Every year, consumers are victimized by dangerously defective products, sustaining catastrophic and even fatal injuries as a result. As robotics become more advanced and integrated with our daily lives, questions of liability relating to these advanced products arise with more frequency. For example, if an injury results from the use of a robot in a home, workplace or hospital, who is responsible? There will no doubt be emerging areas of the law to address these and other questions, however traditional analyses by an experienced product liability attorney will remain critically important. For example, did the injury result from inadequate training of the operator, or was it due to negligent operation? Was the a manufacturing or design defect, either involving the robot itself, or due to sub-standard date entry or software programming?

As surgeons and hospitals turn to robotic surgery, these systems will likely become a factor in more medical malpractice cases. Robotics surgery is a technology with great potential in the hands of a skilled and experienced surgeon. Unfortunately, the training for many surgeons to become certified is minimal and in the hands of a certified surgeon with limited experience doctors can cause serious harm or fatal injuries to their patients. Robotics surgery is used for many types of surgery such as hysterectomies, kidney repair and prostate surgery. Through the use of a computer the surgeon controls the robot from a distance and manipulates the arms of the robot to perform the surgery using minimally invasive methods. Lack of care, inadequate training and lack of experience can cause long-term complications for the patient. The robot can reach into small places that a doctor’s hands could not normally fit, but the doctor’s ability to feel how forcefully they are grabbing tissue (tactile sensation), how they are cutting, and how the stitches are holding is lost, which can be very dangerous for the patient.
Robots used in healthcare settings also have the possibility of malfunctioning and causing injury to their patients, because it is a computerized machine. If the machine breaks during surgery serious injury or death could result. Allegedly, in at least one instance, a piece of the machine broke off during surgery, and the doctor had to stop the surgery all-together until the piece was re-attached. This can pose a great threat to the patient.

As technology advances, our legal system must learn to address new issues presented by the growing use of advanced machinery. Check out this recent article in the Boston Globe HERE , addressing some of the emerging legal concepts associated with malfunctioning, high-tech robots.

The personal injury attorneys at Swartz & Swartz, P.C.  have the resources and experience necessary to help you pursue a medical malpractice claim and/or products liability claim. If you believe that you have been injured or have lost a loved one during a robotics procedure, or other incident involving industrial, home or medical products, please contact one of our highly knowledgeable product liability attorneys. Our lawyers are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights. Call our Boston, Massachusetts office at (617) 742-1900, or toll-free at 1-800-545-3732.

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