It seems that robots designed to assist surgeons in certain operations are becoming more human every day. A recent incident reported involved the most classic of surgical errors: retained surgical instrument.
Roughly 80% of all robot-assisted operations are gynecologic in nature, such as hysterectomies. The most recent adverse event which captured the media’s assistance was the case of a Portland woman who complained of chronic abdominal pain shortly after having a da Vinci robot-assisted hysterectomy in 2012. After months of enduring the pain and going through a whole gamut of treatments, it was finally discovered through an X-ray that a metallic piece from the robot had broken off and had been left behind. It seemed too incredible to be true.
There were 367,000 procedures done using the da Vinci Surgical System in 2012, and a relatively small number of adverse events have been reported with its use, certainly not much different for what has been reported for a relatively similar approach using a laparoscopy, which is also minimally invasive. But because Intuitive Surgical Inc., manufacturer of the da Vinci robot, had made such glowing announcements about the technology, people expected much more than the system could deliver. Moreover, there were implied and expressed guarantees to surgeons reluctant to try the system that led to preventable surgical errors arising from inadequate training in its use.
According to the National Injury Law Center, many of the patients who had a negative experience with the da Vinci system had to have additional surgery to rectify surgical injuries; and those were the fortunate ones. Others had irreparable damage done, leaving them with diminished capacities. Some have even led to death. While any surgery carries risks, the use of robot-assisted technology has opened up new vistas in surgical errors, which is why Intuitive is being sued for these injuries rather than the surgeons or hospitals.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that it is not a violation of constitutional rights to take DNA samples from suspects of violent crimes at the time of arrest.
The majority’s opinion, written by justice Anthony Kennedy, likened the practice to fingerprinting and photographing, both crucial measures already practiced by law enforcement to help them identify and convict suspects. The decision will help police identify criminals who have been tied to multiple crimes and may even exonerate individuals who are wrongfully behind bars.
However, the opposing justices see the measure as an drastic increase in police powers and believe that allowing DNA samples to be extracted upon arrest for violent crimes will lead to the same being allowed for nonviolent offenses. Prior to this decision, it has been normal practice to collect DNA samples after a criminal is convicted of an offense rather than at the time of arrest.
More than half of the states and the federal government already allow DNA swabbing at the time of arrest. Of course for a person’s DNA to be of any use in court, investigators will have to have found a matching sample at the scene of a crime to use as evidence.
People who are on trial for crimes, no matter how heinous the accusations against them, are entitle to due process of the law. That is, their rights to life, liberty, and property should not be ignored or taken away simply because of a horrible, unsubstantiated accusation unless it is proven to be true in court.
Under the law, the court system must assume defendants are not guilty until their guilt is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. This means prosecutors must display abundant evidence that supports the accused criminal committed the offense. At the same time, it’s important to remove any doubt from the jury’s minds that the individual did not commit the crime.
While it may seem difficult to follow due process when an alleged crime creates widespread passion, such as is the case with mass shootings and terrorist attacks, even these people deserve a chance to defend themselves in a court of law.
In such proceedings, the prosecutor has the burden of proof, meaning it is up to him or her to prove to the court that the law was broken by the suspect in the way he or she is accused of breaking it. The defender’s role is to do everything he or she can to discredit or disprove witnesses and evidence against the accused criminal.
The right to legal defense is one of the most important available to you in the event that you are charged with a serious crime. Your right to due process entitles you to legal counsel and helps protect you from being wrongfully convicted.