How the “Black Box” May Prevent Malpractice

We have all heard of the seemingly magical black box in airplanes. Nearly indestructible, the device tracks what happens inside the airplane in order to help experts determine the causes of airplane accidents so future accidents can be prevented. Now there may be a similar device that can help prevent personal injuries and wrongful deaths due to medical malpractice.

The Brampton Guard reports that a “black box” is tracking errors in a Toronto operating room. The device collected data that shows that surgeons are making the overwhelming majority of their errors during the same two steps of surgery, over and over again. Now researchers can take that information to try to develop ways to reduce those errors in the future, so that fewer patients wind up injured.

Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, the person who created the “black box” compares its usefulness to learning how to play golf. He says, “Usually we can’t appreciate our performance while we’re in the middle of the operation…You swing and you think you’ve done a great job and someone video records it and shows you how you’ve done and obviously there are so many things to improve.”

How the Black Box Works

The “black box” is fairly simple. Three microphones and three cameras record the surgeries. Two of the cameras are filming the operation room and one is recording what is happening inside the patient’s body. A report by the Globe and Mail explains that the system also records conversations between doctors and nurses and logs temperature and decibel levels.

Currently the technology is only being used for a limited number of laparoscopic procedures. However, the hospital that is using the system hopes to expand to different specialties and hospitals, including some European hospitals.

In this age of red light cameras and government surveillance, some people may have privacy concerns about this system. A panel of surgical experts does review all of the footage. But it may be of some relief that the recordings are only kept for thirty days due to privacy constraints. After that, only the analysis of those recordings remains. If such a system were to take off in the United States, it would be one more reasons for those who believe they have been victims of medical malpractice to contact an attorney as soon as possible, in order to prevent possible evidence from being destroyed.

The usefulness of this technology in medical malpractice cases is the one concern its creator has about it. He told the Brampton Guardian that, while his colleagues have so far embraced the technology, he worries it will never take off if its use is allowed in medical malpractice cases. This concern should not get in the way of life-saving technology. Black boxes may sometimes be used as evidence of liability after a plane crash-that does not mean we should not use them. Additionally, while the recordings may prove malpractice, they could just as easily prove that no malpractice occurred. The tool could be extremely useful at weeding out so-called frivolous cases while making sure those who are malpractice victims obtain the recovery they deserve.

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