New tech to record surgical data, may not be admissible in court

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

A New York University law professor says that most medical malpractice lawsuits come down to arguments due to a lack of information by all parties involved. A new technology being developed by Canadian researchers may have an impact if its data is allowed into courtrooms. Either way, the surgical black box reportedly promises to improve patient safety by preventing medical errors and helping doctors learn from the errors that do occur.

The technology is reminiscent of black boxes in airplanes which record relevant flight data for review if something goes wrong. According to a surgeon in Toronto, however, the surgical black box would give real-time feedback, allowing medical personnel to address potential problems before complications occur. It makes use of cameras and microphones in the operating room and records details about the surgeon’s movements and the interaction of the medical team during procedures.

One major concern about the use of the technology which is still in the early phases of testing is that it will lead to malpractice lawsuits. Or, more accurately, some medical professionals believe that use of a black box will make surgeons nervous and could negatively impact patient safety. The Healthcare Quality Improvement Act, however, prevents courts from making use of data that is used for peer review.

The NYU law professor would like to see such data made admissible, he says, as the lack of knowledge as to the cause of injuries leads to distrust between patients and medical professionals. In a situation where a patient is injured and suspects surgical errors, a medical malpractice attorney may be able to gather and review evidence. An attorney may be able to help injured parties by negotiating settlement with surgeons, hospitals and other defendants or by bringing a civil lawsuit for damages.

Source:, “Surgical ‘black box’ could reduce errors”, Chethan Sathya , August 22, 2014

Related Posts