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New technologies bring new complications in surgery

For many Maryland residents, it may seem like each time they visit the doctor's office, they discover new technologies used in medical care. These technologies may have the potential to reduce costs and improve patient care, when used properly. When not used properly, however, the new technologies can bring devastating personal injury to patients if there is surgeon negligence.

For example, one new technology is at the heart of a dispute over the quality of care and the safety to patients. The number of robots used in surgeries has greatly expanded over the past two years. The robots may be used in gynecological treatments, prostate and gall bladder removals and even heart surgery. Typically, a doctor looks into a high-definition display while operating the robot from several feet away from the patient.

Yet, despite their effectiveness, new medical malpractice lawsuits are alleging the robots have been involved in dangerous complications. Indeed, the reports of injuries involving robot surgeries increased to at least 115 in 2012 --- more than four times what it was just two years earlier. There have also been nearly triple the amount of deaths in the procedures.

Despite the novelty of the robots, a medical malpractice action involving new technology proceeds in a similar fashion to any standard malpractice suit. Namely, a plaintiff can recover damages for her injuries if she proves the doctor violated a duty of care to the patient that resulted in the injuries. The doctor must possess a required degree of skill and expertise under the circumstances, and thus the actions involving robot surgeries would judge the doctor by the skill, care and diligence required of physicians who perform such surgeries.

Source: Standard Examiner, "New lawsuits, deaths bringing more scrutiny for robot surgery," Robert Langreth, Mar. 7, 2013

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