The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Monday, October 22, 2018

Medical Malpractice and Machine Errors

Who is at-fault when a medical machine causes a patient injury?

Medical errors are a leading cause of death worldwide.  In fact, a report published in the British Medical Journal suggests that medical errors are in the third leading cause of death in the United States, causing at least 250,000 deaths per year.  Misdiagnoses are perhaps the most common cause of medical malpractice cases.  As the medical world becomes increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence, machines will play a greater role in our diagnosis and treatment.  Machines may reduce instances of medical malpractice, but machines are not infallible.  Our Monmouth County, New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers discuss how medical malpractice cases may evolve and change as the medical field incorporates more artificially intelligent machines.

Machines Can Now Diagnosis and Treat

Artificial intelligence is developing in leaps and bounds.  For years, machines have become the primary method of diagnosing certain conditions through medical imaging, like MRI machines and CT scanners.  Robots now allow doctors to perform many different types of delicate surgeries, with robotic surgery now the gold standard when it comes to numerous procedures due to its increased safety and minimal complications.  

Now, new technologies are being used in the detection of certain conditions, with success rates far higher than humans. For example, a new AI system still in development can identify heart attack risks by looking at chest scans. Another AI can diagnose skin cancer, while yet another can recognize several major types of lung cancer.   

Advancing artificially intelligent technologies are largely regarded as a huge step forward in the medical field.  Machines that save lives should be embraced by us all, but when machines make errors, questions as to liability swirl.  Fault for a medical error requires a close examination of the actions of both the physician and the machinery involved.  A doctor’s conduct will be compared to that of a reasonable doctor, and if it fell short, the doctor could be liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.  Where the doctor’s negligence involved operation or use of a machine, the doctor would typically still be at-fault.

Another possibility for negligence lies in the creator of the medical device. At times, the makers of a faulty piece of medical equipment could be held responsible for the injuries it inflicts.  For instance, if a cancer screening machine misses a cancerous cell, potentially the makers of the machine could be liable.  However, even in these cases, typically the doctor is ultimately deemed responsible for the patient’s diagnosis and treatment.  Doctors are expected to independently examine and weigh the findings of any artificially intelligent machine.  As machines grow in intelligence and independent functioning, more complex issues regarding medical malpractice are sure to arise in the future.


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