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Autonomous surgical robotic systems and the liability dilemma

Jamjoom, Aimun A.b., Jamjoom, Ammer M.a., Thomas, Jeffrey ORCID: 0000-0002-5939-5559, Palmisciano, Paolo, Kerr, Karen, Collins, Justin W., Vayena, Effy, Stoyanov, Danail and Marcus, Hani J. (2022) Autonomous surgical robotic systems and the liability dilemma. Frontiers in Surgery, 9. ISSN 2296-875X

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Identification Number: 10.3389/fsurg.2022.1015367


Background: Advances in machine learning and robotics have allowed the development of increasingly autonomous robotic systems which are able to make decisions and learn from experience. This distribution of decisionmaking away from human supervision poses a legal challenge for determining liability. Methods: The iRobotSurgeon survey aimed to explore public opinion towards the issue of liability with robotic surgical systems. The survey included five hypothetical scenarios where a patient comes to harm and the respondent needs to determine who they believe is most responsible: the surgeon, the robot manufacturer, the hospital, or another party. Results: A total of 2,191 completed surveys were gathered evaluating 10,955 individual scenario responses from 78 countries spanning 6 continents. The survey demonstrated a pattern in which participants were sensitive to shifts from fully surgeon-controlled scenarios to scenarios in which robotic systems played a larger role in decision-making such that surgeons were blamed less. However, there was a limit to this shift with human surgeons still being ascribed blame in scenarios of autonomous robotic systems where humans had no role in decision-making. Importantly, there was no clear consensus among respondents where to allocate blame in the case of harm occurring from a fully autonomous system. Conclusions: The iRobotSurgeon Survey demonstrated a dilemma among respondents on who to blame when harm is caused by a fully autonomous surgical robotic system. Importantly, it also showed that the surgeon is ascribed blame even when they have had no role in decision-making which adds weight to concerns that human operators could act as “moral crumple zones” and bear the brunt of legal responsibility when a complex autonomous system causes harm.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s).
Divisions: Management
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2022 10:57
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2024 21:09

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