This is not the first post about robots on this blog. If you missed the previous ones, I encourage you to click HERE to read about robots in the world of shopping, and HERE to find out more about robot courtesans.
While there are some people who are equally on alert as I, many people seem to be mostly OK with robots taking over various fields of our lives. Yes, they might be faster. Yes, they might make things more convenient. Yes, they eliminate the need for small talk and fake smiles. However, I feel like this is one of many things that we dismiss as not a big deal until it will be too little too late.
Would you like to know what happened that prompted me to write this post? A robot read out a death sentence to a man. OK, well, it was not exactly like that. A man in his late 70s had recently been a patient at one of California’s hospitals. The patient’s granddaughter had been sitting by his side when a nurse wheeled in a robot equipped with a screen and an audio system. I can only assume that there was a camera somewhere in there, too, but I cannot confirm.
The doctor visible on the screen told the patient that he only had a couple of days to live. The man died the next day.
The progress in medicine and technology is truly staggering. (At least in some fields.) However, sometimes it feels like we are so blinded by the advancements that we lose sight of anything else.
If you know a nurse who works on the inpatient floors, chances are you know how short-staffed hospitals often are. A single nurse is assigned multiple patients. A few years back I have heard of Remote Patient Monitoring, which means exactly what it says – a person watches you through a camera, while they are somewhere else other than with you. The goal was to help the spread out nurses focus on the most important things, while the Big Brother (or Sister, or…?) watches over the rest, notifying the nurse of anything urgent.
A nurse does not have limitless powers, so the RPM might come in handy in situations when snap decision making is needed. Say a nurse is with a patient in room 1, while a patient from room 15 (15 was chosen for dramatic purposes, because usually the nurses are assigned rooms near one another.) sleeps. Suddenly, 15’s breathing and blood pressure are all over the place, which notifies the remote staff, they “look” at what is going on, page the nurse and while they are both “in the room”, a specific medication is prescribed and a crisis is averted.
It is meant to save time.
Be more efficient.
And most of all, be cost-effective.
A single doctor can sit in the comfort of their own home, yet be “present” and “practicing” their occupation in hospitals located in different states. How cool is that?
In theory, it sounds very cool. If the hospital has to pay less to their staff, the patients’ medical bills will go down. However, medical professionals are upset with such a turn of events, worrying that such technology can make their positions redundant. They argue that not everything can be seen and felt through the machines.
The other thing that is missing in this whole process is exactly what the essence of this post is about – human interaction.
For a doctor, giving bad news to the patient/ their families is possibly the worst part of their jobs. Many struggle with it. Many choose “safe” fields to limit those difficult discussions. Most of us cannot just say: “Oh, yea, you are going to die tomorrow” without feeling empathy. Yes, it can get easier with time, but the pinch in your heart and its sinking cannot be eliminating. Aside from feeling bad for the patient/ their family, you also worry about yourself. One can never be certain of how people will react. Some people get violent.
In the case of the deceased man from California, the lack of the human factor is the family’s biggest gripe. The VP of the hospital defends themselves by saying that there was a human doctor involved the whole time along the way leading up to the end. That the diagnosis was previously discussed with the family. That what the robot-doctor said was nothing “new”. The family does collaborate that side of the story.
“I could tell by the look on his face what that did to him” – said the granddaughter. That is devastating to watch, indeed. People always have hope. Even if serious terms are tossed around. But when the final “sentence” comes, it is brutal. You can never be prepared for that. The wife of the deceased patient complained that she was not by her husband’s side when he got the news. She and her daughter left the hospital to go rest, thinking that there were not going to be any more updates that day, leaving the granddaughter behind. Unfortunately, you cannot always time the doctor’s visit to your room. And they do and try to tell you as early as they find out. Having had made the announcement, the robot gave the family a chance to come back and say their goodbyes. Otherwise, if they waited for the “real” doctor to come in and round the next day, they might have not made it in time.
The time of death is a difficult time for all involved. The patient/ family, as well as the staff. People grieve differently. There will always be someone dissatisfied with how things are handled.
We seem to be very accepting of robots in our everyday lives because they make our life more convenient. But where does it end?
How would you feel if a robot told you-you were dying?
Did you enjoy reading this post? Hit LIKE.
Have some thoughts on the topic? Share in the COMMENTS.
Do you regularly enjoy my blog? Be sure to FOLLOW.
Are my posts getting lost in your busy Reader? Try SUBSCRIBING.