Friday, May 2, 2008

Robot Birth?

This article is from 2006, so it isn't new news, but was the first I had read about the kind of robot used to train people in obstetrics in managing birth.

From the article:

"The full-sized, blond, pale mannequin is in demand because medicine is rapidly abandoning centuries-old training methods that use patients as guinea pigs, turning instead to high-tech simulations. It's better to make a mistake on a $20,000 robot than a live patient.

The Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that as many as 98,000 U.S. patients die annually from preventable medical errors. [emphasis mine]

"We're trying to engineer out some of the errors,'' said Dr. Paul Preston, an anesthesiologist at Kaiser Permanente and architect of the hospital chain's 4-year-old pregnancy-care training program, in which Noelle plays a starring role. "

The robot is very technologically advanced and can be programmed for all kinds of "disasters" as well as for more straightforward situations. She "gives birth" to a baby with vital signs and respiration (both mother and baby can also urinate and bleed!). While I am certainly glad this teaching tool reduces the amount in which birthing women are used as guinea pigs, there is something about this "tool" that, quite frankly, really bugs me. I guess because birthing women ARE often seen through mechanical terms and as a collection of parts rather than a real, feeling, caring woman. So using a mechanical tool to prepare for attending real women in birth seems to reinforce that view of women, labor, and birth.

Thanks to Debbie in Missouri for sharing the link to this article in the first place.

In addition, I am editing this post on 5/11 to note I just read a more current article (from April 2008) on the Knoxville News site.

"'These drills are usually held for situations that don't happen very often but are very serious when they do happen,' Fry said. 'The nurses need to be able to act automatically.'"

When I read this, I immediately thought of all the normal birth situations in which nurses also act "automatically" and pursue routines instead of individual needs and wishes :(

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