Safety fears over use of robots in medical procedures

Survey reveals only 9% of people would want a robot to carry out surgery

The majority of people surveyed had reservations about being operated on by robots

Only 9% of people would prefer to undergo surgery carried out by a robot surgeon compared to a human, despite recent advances in technology that have led to a rise in the use of robotics in medical settings.

This is according to a new survey, conducted by Northern Connectors, which found 51% of people would still favour a human surgeon as opposed to a robotic device.

The survey, which questioned 570 people about their opinions on recent medical advancements, revealed that only 9% of respondents would rather a robot carried out their surgery, while 40% answered ‘I don’t know’.

When asked about their views on the main disadvantages of using robotics in medicine, 73% said the ‘possibility of malfunction’ was a concern, followed by the high cost of the machinery (56%), and a loss of jobs in the NHS (41%).

Scott Jones, general manager at Northern Connectors, said of the findings: “The use of robotic systems in surgical and medical applications is becoming more widespread, with ongoing advances in the technology likely to make this even more common in future.

While people seem to be vaguely aware of the benefits of using robotics in medical procedures, it is clear that more needs to be done to alleviate concerns among members of the public

“However, the findings of our survey suggest there is still a long way to go when it comes to trusting machinery to carry out work typically performed by humans.

“Despite the fact that robots are, in many ways, seen as more accurate and reliable than human surgeons, people are inevitably worried about putting their lives in the hands of a machine.”

But the responses were not all negative, with many people agreeing that using robotics in medicine can come with a number of benefits.

When asked about the main advantages, 64% said the reduced risk of human error, followed by less-invasive surgery (57%), and smaller incisions (56%).

When asked to what extent they agreed that the increased use of robotics by medical care providers would improve the standard of patient care, 45% said they ‘neither agree nor disagree’, 34% said ‘agree’, 8% said ‘disagree’ and 2% said ‘strongly disagree’. Only 11% of respondents strongly agreed that robotics would lead to an improvement in patient care.

Despite the fact that robots are, in many ways, seen as more accurate and reliable than human surgeons, people are inevitably worried about putting their lives in the hands of a machine

Jones said: “While people seem to be vaguely aware of the benefits of using robotics in medical procedures, it is clear that more needs to be done to alleviate concerns among members of the public.

“Fears surrounding the safety and accuracy of procedures are prevalent among members of the public. However, it is highly likely that the widespread use of medical robotics is set to continue. So more education of the advantages of such products is needed to truly gain the support of the public.”

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