Meet McSleepy, the World's First Robot Anesthesiologist

Illustration for article titled Meet McSleepy, the World's First Robot Anesthesiologist

Anesthesiologists are required to participate in every surgery, standing by to administer drugs and monitor the patient's vital signs while surgeons do their jobs. But now a group of researchers at Montreal's McGill University have invented a device that could replace human anesthesiologists with robots in the next five years. An anesthesia bot called McSleepy has just successfully completed its first surgery, administering drugs to a patient undergoing a tumor removal on his kidney.


McGill anesthesiologist Thomas M. Hemmerling, who helped develop McSleepy, says:

We have been working on closed-loop systems, where drugs are administered, their effects continuously monitored, and the doses are adjusted accordingly, for the last five years. Think of "McSleepy" as a sort of humanoid anesthesiologist that thinks like an anesthesiologist, analyses biological information and constantly adapts its own behavior, even recognizing monitoring malfunction.

Given that anesthesia can be one of the most potentially deadly parts of an operation, I'm curious about how hospitals will handle insurance for McSleepy. Or malpractice suits. This is probably less of an issue in places like Canada than in the U.S., which has a really litigious culture around malpractice issues. Maybe that means McSleepy will never make his way over stateside.

I still can't decide if I'd feel safer or less safe with a robot monitoring my anesthesia. At least it wouldn't fall prey to human error — only to operating system crashes.

McGill News via The Biotech Weblog



"If McSleep kills fewer people than real doctors do there should be no

liability at all in the absence of gross negligence from the hospital"

erm.... presumably someone is going to have to program the machine

prior to each surgery (and load it with drugs, etc). If this is the

case then it is not free from human error as the person who sets it up

is...human...and, er, prone to error! If they get a doctor to set it

up before surgery and programme the thing then it kind of defeats the

object of having a machine in the first place. If, on the other hand,

they get some underpaid technician prepare the machine... are mistakes

not just as likely as a doctor that has years of experience anyway?

I think it would be interesting to see how well the machine could cope

with events that are not planned for... like spotting the signs of

pulmonary embolism or hyperkalaemia for instance...