We’re always moving closer to having robots in our life – hopefully they will not take over! The world keeps advancing, but we might have taken it a step too far.  The experience of a Californian family with a tele-medicine robot forces the hospital to rethink its policy… 

Shock, pain and bewilderment for a family from Fremont, California, who saw the imminent death of a 79-year-old grandfather from a robot; or better said through a robot. The doctor who was treating the elderly gentleman, whose lungs were inevitably collapsing, in fact gave the news from the monitor of the automaton.

Image: Getty

Ernest Quintana, 79, had been ill for some time. The patient and his family knew that the lungs would not hold up much longer, but they did not expect that such a delicate communication as the approaching end of a person’s life could take place in this mode at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fremont.

The nurse had announced that the doctor would soon arrive to update the patient and his family on the situation, but in Mr. Quintana’s room, instead of a person in flesh and blood, a robot for tele-medicine entered. On the screen appeared the face of the doctor who said: “it is probable that he will never return home”.

Although the family was aware of the critical conditions of their loved one and was prepared for the fact that there was not much lacking in the end, there was no appreciation for the means of communication used.

Mr. Quintana died two days later, and the family asked for clarifications on the incident: “Is it possible that doctors use robots for such sensitive communications?”