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A month or so ago in a stupor before heading off to bed, I watched part of an episode of Holby City, a UK TV series which relates the quotodien of a fictional acute hospital. In that particularly overacted episode, two surgeons squabble over who will take the lead in robotic surgery. Many of you have have worked with real surgeons will know few of them are shrinking violets, probably a good thing, because they may have to take life and death decisions in seconds. It may come as a surprise then that in the future some surgeons may actually be invisible.

The latest edition of New Scientist* has a nice article by Gaia Vince titled Rise of the Medibots which suggests surgeons of the future may be too small to see.

The entomological metaphors in the article strike you: many of the devices are like centipedes or small spiders that are guided by humans through the heart, eye and other inaccessible parts of human anatomy. At this, some of you may think of that bug-thing that the Agents insert into Neo's navel in The Matrix, and it may be like that, though the ones described in the article are good guys.

Some of you may also recollect I posted about a discussion on BBC Radio 4 in which Professor Robert Winston took part. Prof. Winston was of the opinion that patients needed the human touch, and suggested robots were good but would never catch on. This is nonesense, of course. Healthcare in the future will apply robot and human touch.

* 21 November 2009 pp50-51


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