This patient is in grape danger.
You've probably heard of robot-assisted surgery, but it's another thing entirely to see it in action.
In this video, produced to promote the da Vinci Surgical System, two tiny robot arms painstakingly stitch the skin back onto a partially peeled grape. Surgery is rarely referred to as "cute" for obvious reasons, but something about the tiny, prone grape being saved from becoming jelly is twee enough to qualify.
The da Vinci system has been around for a while, and making headlines for just as long. As of 2014, just over 3,000 systems are in use globally—the vast majority in the United States. The system uses several robotic arms, which are remotely controlled by a human surgeon and can take the place of several different handheld tools. These arms are jointed to exceed the flexibility of the human wrist, and the mechanical nature of the system reduces the possibility of human error due to natural hand tremor.
It sounds too good to be true—a system that reduces blood loss, enables more precise movements, and potentially reduces pain post-operation. Indeed, the da Vinci system and its manufacturer Intuitive Surgical have come under scrutiny in recent years. Several pending lawsuits blame the system for serious post-op complications, and in one case, death. In one lawsuit, a witness accused the company of marketing the system specifically to less-skilled surgeons. And on a more philosophical level, the more we rely on robotic systems to perform complex procedures, the independent decision-making capability of the human brain becomes less important, secondary to precision and efficiency.
Hopefully, human intuition and robotic accuracy can find a way to merge more effectively in the future. For now, we can be happy that this grape will live on, possibly as some really good wine.