Until they become fully autonomous, surgical robots will only be as good as their human operators. Training for all surgeons, nurses, bedside assistants, and other surgical team members is critical to ensuring optimal patient outcomes. Thus, many manufacturers ask surgical staff to undergo instruction and demonstrations on how to set up, handle, and operate their systems. Such training can span several days and often includes simulations, scenario role-playing, and hands-on time with the robot. But what should a robot manufacturer do when asked by healthcare providers to modify its training curriculum and change certain important elements like course length, course content, or attendee roles and numbers?
Continue Reading Mitigating The Risks Of Training Curriculum Modification Requests

Recently, an artificial intelligence-guided robot successfully performed a laparoscopic surgery to connect two ends of an intestine in four pigs, without any human intervention. And according to the researchers involved, the robot surgeon produced “significantly better” results than humans. Though such an accomplishment is astonishing and signals the inevitable rise of fully autonomous medical robots, it is important to remember that the results generated by artificial intelligence are only as good as the information used to train it.
Continue Reading The Risk of Clinical Data Collection Biases In Fully Autonomous Medical Robots

This week, the European Commission unveiled new proposed rules “aiming to turn Europe into the global hub for trustworthy” artificial intelligence. The 108-page first-of-its-kind policy outlines how companies and governments should use artificial intelligence, and sets “limits around the use of artificial intelligence in a range of activities, from self-driving cars to hiring decisions, bank lending, school enrollment selections and the scoring of exams.” Importantly, the proposed rules also directly impact artificial intelligence application in robot-assisted surgery.
Continue Reading Europe’s New Proposed Rules for Artificial Intelligence and Robot-Assisted Surgery

It’s no secret that defending against product liability lawsuits can be costly. But surgical robot manufacturers sometimes ask me to give them hard numbers. To read the tea leaves and estimate how much they’ll have to spend to resolve such claims. Unfortunately, the answer is hard to swallow.
Continue Reading Surgical Robots Risk Greater Legal Costs Than You May Think

Recently, my colleague Amy Foust made some really good points about a subject that is rarely discussed.  Over the years, a number of patients have claimed that they were injured by surgical robots defective by design or manufacture.  A recent study from Johns Hopkins University may now allow some to argue that surgical robots are also injuring surgeons. 
Continue Reading Can Robot-Assisted Surgery Be a Pain?

As I noted last month, surgeon training is one of the issues that was debated in the various product liability lawsuits that were filed against Intuitive Surgical in recent years.  This begs the question: How much training should a surgeon complete before being handed the keys to a surgical robot?
Continue Reading Lessons Learned From the Intuitive Surgical Lawsuits: Physician Learning Curves

Though a number of companies manufacture and sell surgical robots in the United States, Intuitive Surgical has been the primary target of product liability lawsuits in recent years. Around 100 such claims have already been filed and at least 700 more are believed to have been placed on the back burner pursuant to a tolling agreement with some plaintiffs’ counsel. To date, only two product liability cases against Intuitive have gone to trial. The jury returned a defense verdict in the first case and the second was settled while the jury was deliberating. These cases serve as a great source of important takeaways for other companies that are either currently selling surgical robots in the United States, or are considering doing so.
Continue Reading Lessons Learned From the Intuitive Surgical Lawsuits: The Benefits of Partnering With Independent Educational Firms

Varun Saxena from Fierce Medical Devices recently reported that partners Johnson & Johnson and Google are designing their own robotic surgery devices, which “will compete with Intuitive in general surgery arenas, which include hernia repair and colorectal surgery.”  The Johnson & Johnson endeavor was formed in collaboration with Google’s Verily Life Sciences and will operate under the name Verb Surgical Inc.
Continue Reading As New Players Enter the Robotic Surgery Field, the Legal Implications are Limitless