Yes, robots are responsible for patient injuries and deaths. Learn more about the problem, and what to do if you are injured.

That title almost sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, doesn’t it? Now robots are getting into legal trouble for their negligent actions too. A report by the BBC acknowledged an American study that found robots played a role in 144 surgical deaths and 1,000 injuries over a 14-year period.

No One Knows the True Extent of the Problem

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign performed the study on robotic surgeries from January 2000 to December 2013. It’s important to note that the study didn’t officially conclude the robots caused the deaths. It’s just that these deaths happened where robots were present and part of the surgery.

But on the flip side of the coin, they didn’t disprove that either. And this number represents just a part of the total robotic surgeries performed during that time period. So it could be that even more deaths happened. And it’s theorized that more injuries and deaths happen with more complex surgeries.

Interestingly, robots have been assisting in surgeries since the 1980s. Doesn’t that sound hard to believe? I mean, we didn’t even have the Internet back then.

Anyway, there was good motivation behind robotically-assisted surgeries. The goal was to have them perform more precise incisions and removals. Some surgeries take so long that fatigue and stress takes a toll on a surgeon’s ability to perform. So ideally, robots would reduce mistakes and improve surgical performance.

Do you feel a “but” coming?

Well, here it is. While robots help in some ways, they’re also known to cause accidents and harm to patients. This paper found that these are the most common kinds of harm robots can cause:

  • Broken/burned robotic parts have been found in patient’s bodies
  • Wild, uncontrolled movements
  • Spontaneous powering on and off
  • Shooting electrical sparks
  • Unintended charring of patient’s bodies
  • Loss of the ability to show video
  • Inability to produce reports and display system errors

What are Your Rights? What Should You Do if You Get Injured by a Surgical Robot?

From your end, the process of filing a lawsuit is no different than any other. In the case of surgical robots, you file a “product liability injury claim.” That means you allege the design or manufacturing process of the robot was defective in some way.

In Texas, you have 2 years from the date of your injury to file your claim. That’s called the “statute of limitations.” Wait any longer than that, and you can never seek compensation for your injuries.

Should you avoid robotic surgeries at all costs? That’s up to you. It’s clear they play a role in some injuries and deaths, but the true extent isn’t known. And no one’s sure if they cause more, less, or the same number of injuries as human surgeons. Simply exercise your best discretion, and understand some level of risk is associated with robotic surgeries.

If you are in a situation where you have been injured by a medical device, contact our Dallas injury attorneys for a free case evaluation.