What Happens When An Artificial Intelligence Robot Gives A Misdiagnosis?

July 27, 2021 by James McHugh, Jr.
Medical Robot Misdiagnosis

Today’s technologically advanced world has realized developments previously only joked about in cartoons or movies, like self-driving cars and trucks. Beyond artificial intelligence on the roadways, increased autonomous functionality is becoming available in the medical profession as well. One such advance is the use of a medical artificial intelligence robot which can analyze symptoms and make a medical diagnosis. While this technology could improve healthcare worldwide by helping cure diseases and saving more lives, with each new technological advance, legal issues arise that patients must consider before receiving treatment. Many patients now wonder who is legally responsible if a robot or other artificial intelligence device provides a misdiagnosis.

AI Technology and Medical Diagnoses

Artificial intelligence (AI) has more computing power than any human brain. This means AI systems can analyze symptoms, diagnostic data, and medical histories rapidly and thoroughly, going through thousands of possible diagnoses to determine the most likely fit. AI “doctors” can also help speed up the time it takes to receive a diagnosis, provide more personalized healthcare, and lower costs. Unfortunately, AI diagnosticians leave gaping holes in terms of medical malpractice liability.

Who’s At Fault when an AI “Doctor” Misdiagnoses a Patient?

Many patients and patient advocates are concerned AI doctors could be dangerous. If an AI doctor gives a misdiagnosis, whose fault would it be? Ordinarily, when a human doctor negligently misdiagnoses a patient, they and/or the facility that employs them or gives them privileges of practice are responsible for the patient’s resulting injuries; however, with AI doctors, medical responsibility would be harder to define.

While some might ultimately lay blame on a presiding physician or hospital, others might blame the AI robot manufacturer. AI robots use complex machine-learning algorithms. Even the smallest error in this algorithm can cause patients to suffer severe consequences. The trouble with machine learning algorithms is it is impossible to understand exactly how an AI medical device came to a certain decision. This means errors in the algorithm are terribly difficult to detect.

Robotic and AI Surgery – The Future of Medicine?

Doctors will argue all surgical procedures include risk, regardless of whether or not a robot is involved; but robot surgeries have been linked to at least 144 reported deaths in the U.S. Additionally, there are no national requirements regulating how much training a surgeon must have to operate a robotic surgical device.

Doctors and surgeons aren’t trained on this technology during their medical schooling, so they have to take time out of their already busy schedules to be trained. Critics say hospitals don’t give surgeons ample time to learn the systems before they perform their first surgery, partly to compensate for the high cost of the system as well as the maintenance it requires. Without surgeries constantly being performed using these tools, the AI medical devices will become a substantial financial burden for the hospital. This forces hospitals to try to convince patients to participate in these types of procedures more often, even when doctors do not necessarily want to perform the procedures using a robot.

Robotic Surgery Injuries

As great as medical advances are, sometimes technology makes mistakes.  With regard to surgical robots, hardware can break down, software may be corrupted, and there may even be errors with regard to how the systems are programmed.

One highly covered surgical robot, the da Vinci Surgical System, has been the subject of multiple lawsuits concerning its efficacy. Reported injuries have included:

  • Burns
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fatalities
  • Perforated or punctured intestines, organs, and/or vessels
  • Sepsis
  • Vascular injuries

Who’s At Fault After a Surgical Robot Mistake?

Reducing medical mistakes should be a top priority for any hospital or healthcare facility. Robots are certainly an option, but there should always be protocols in place in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately, many hospitals and doctors are not as careful as they should be when it comes to preventing medical mistakes. Whether it’s a diagnostic error or surgical mistake, lapses in judgment or flat-out negligence can have fatal consequences for patients.

Medical Misdiagnosis and Surgical Malpractice Attorneys for Philadelphia Families

It is unclear how the future of AI “doctors” and surgical robots will unfold. If an artificial intelligence medical device misdiagnoses a condition and the subsequent treatment is inappropriate, that can cause serious harm to the patient. If you have been misdiagnosed by an AI doctor or otherwise injured by surgical robotic device, you may not know what to do. You should have the facts of your situation evaluated by an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

Many patients who have suffered injuries as the result of a medical mistake are afraid to speak out against a doctor or hospital, but the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Lopez McHugh LLP can help. Our firm offers free, no obligation consultations to help you determine whether you are eligible to file a claim and entitled to financial compensation. Contact us today for more information.

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