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Saturday
Nov202010

Bill Gates and Robot Cesareans

 

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By Jill—Unnecesarean

 

SmartPlanet reported that Bill Gates told the audience at the mHealth Summit on November 9, 2010:

When asked what’s next in our technological advancement, Gates said there’s no doubt it’s robots. “If you don’t want to go to a convention,” he said, “just send a robot. “When we look at something like infant mortality, there’s a certain level you can’t get below if you can’t do C-sections.” He said doing a caesarean section delivery requires a sterile environment, but Gates said it’s fairly routine, so it could be done by a robot.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (31)

A robot controlled by a doctor who is looking at the operative site remotely maybe.
Some surgeries are already done this way with tiny "hands" controlled remotely. They are called "Waldoes" after the Heinlein story Waldo and Magic Incorporated.
Gates may know about robots, but I don't think he knows much about anatomy. There are too many variations of human anatomy to make a procedure automatic. An infinity of judgment calls which I think is more than we can program a robot to make.

There is also something offensive about the very idea of it. And he isn't exactly an expert on birth, to be making pronouncements about it.

The rate was somewhere down around 5% in the 40's. I don't think the mortality rate has decreased corresponding with the increase in C sections. Someone MIGHT be able to convince me that there was some morbidity which could be decreased by increasing the rate to 10% but they would have to prove it. I hear that cerebral palsy, for instance, has not decreased as it was thought it would once difficult forceps deliveries were replaced by C sections.

He stole the GUI interface from Apple and marketed it better. So he is rich rich rich. It doesn't make his pronouncements about birth worth a bean.
Susan Peterson

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Peterson

I don't know, given some of the comments I've heard out of the mouth of OBs (or heard about), a nice automated robot a couple of nurses and a doula might be an improvement ;)

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjespren

Oh my.....so many snarky comebacks coming to mind....

PROS:
Having a robot do the surgery might have the benefit of not giving you the false impression that any other outcome was possible.
No annoying personal conversations between surgeon and staff during the glorious moment of your child's birth.

CONS:
If OBs were worried that midwives were going to put them out of business, what would they think of the robots???
Can robots be sued in court for malpractice?

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlarissa

I absolutely see where he's coming from in terms of the infant mortality/global health perspective. From the robot perspective...? Let's not be too trusting of the guy who created Microsoft Windows. (Says the devoted lifelong Mac owner.)

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

"Fairly routine," until it isn't. Maybe it's okay; but all women's anatomy is not identical, and I'd sure hate for the robot to miss an aberration or "variation of normal" and cut an artery that "shouldn't be there" that a person would recognize, even if a machine doesn't. On the other hand, if it's more precise than a human, it may reduce human errors. But the thought of the first thing touching the baby being a machine rather than a human makes me say *dislike*.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

You gotta be fucking kidding me!

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatrice

This coming from a guy who has performed so many right?

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermommymichael

There you go, just what we need. Remove human error. And then, look -- the robots have a 100% accuracy rate! Much better than when we let women birth naturally! Everyone should have a c-section! Can you hear me throwing up over here? Yeah, thanks Bill Gates. Thanks a lot. Taking away that human aspect of it means the medical model of care will become that much less interested in individual, personal care and a lot more interested in text book, one-size-fits-all care. It's not bad enough we're already there, but do we really need to force it that much further down the drain? Absolutely disgusting.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

@Susan - re: C/s rate & maternal mortality - actually, one could make the case that the MMR has decreased along with an increase in C/s rate -- to a certain point! When birth started being taken over by doctors and hospitals, the MMR went up, and in 1935 the White House issued a report blaming the high MMR at least in part on the over-medicalization of childbirth, and specifically called on a reduction in the C/s rate. This was in the days before antibiotics (they possibly had had sulfa drugs for a year or two) and before safe blood transfusions. The MMR has gone down basically every year from that time until 1987 (there may have been a slight fluctuation, with one year being slightly higher than the year before, in the 70s and early 80s). But correlation does not equal causation. There were many changes that occurred between 1935 and 1987 that reduced the risks and incidence of maternal mortality (a general increase in health and sanitation, for instance, as most people got electricity and running water, plus improvements in overall medical and birth knowledge), separate from C-sections. Plus, remember the "GIGO principle" -- "garbage in, garbage out" -- the official rate is only as good as what was reported, and while reported MMR may have been as low as 6.6 in 1987 and has doubled since then, in the past the CDC has publicly acknowledged that they miss as many as 30% of maternal deaths that should be counted as MMR. Efforts have been made at improving the accuracy of reporting, so it may be that the *apparent* increase in maternal deaths is at least partially attributable to more deaths being *counted* rather than more deaths *occurring*. But, since all we have to go on is the CDC official stats, either the rate of maternal death has actually doubled in the past 20 years, or there were many maternal deaths that were ignored for the past 3 decades.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Gates, just stick to computers. Seriously.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine Anderson
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