A Fremont family is shocked and heartbroken after a doctor used a robot to tell his patient he was dying last week, KTVU
The incident took place on Sunday when Ernest Quintana was admitted into Kaiser Permanente Medical Center emergency department. Surrounded by his family, the 79-year-old received news that his lungs were failing from a doctor using a robot's video screen to deliver the terminal prognosis.
"The nurse came around and said the doctor was going to make rounds and I thought 'OK, no big deal, I'm here,'" his granddaughter Annalisia Wilharm recalled. Shortly after, the robot entered the room and a doctor appeared on the video screen. Wilharm said this was how her grandfather learned the devastating news that his lungs were failing and did not have long to live.
What made the situation worse is that Quintana had trouble hearing the doctor and his family had to relay the message to him.
"He already has a problem hearing. So with that and everything he couldn't hear very well," Wilharm told KTVU, adding that they had to instead repeat everything the doctor had said back to Quintana.
The family said when they queried staff about the unusual method used by their doctor, they were informed that it was part of the hospital's policy.
"We use video technology as an appropriate enhancement to the care team, and a way to bring additional consultative expertise to the bedside," explained Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice-President Michelle Gaskill-Hames in a written statement, according to KTVU.
"We offer our sincere condolences," she continued. "This is a highly unusual circumstance. We regret falling short in meeting the patient's and family's expectations in this situation and we will use this as an opportunity to review our practices and standards with the care team."
There has been a push for robots to be included in the day-to-day functions of hospitals. "Tug" was one of the first to make headlines as a robot used to assist hospital staff by delivering food and drugs to patients along with other minor tasks, Wired
Earlier this year the Asahi Shimbun
reported that Nagoya University Hospital, based in Nagoya, Tsurumaicho, is rolling out a program that would see a full squad of robots delivering medicine and test samples.
While the technology is intended to be used to alleviate the workload of doctors and nurses, the Quintana family found it devastating to hear tragic news being delivered via a robot.
"We knew that this was coming and that he was very sick," Wilharm said of her grandfather's diagnosis. "But I don't think somebody should get the news delivered that way. It should have been a human being come in."
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