Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Sci-fi medicine: an odyssey

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 21 October 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4312
  1. Ara Darzi, professor of surgery, Department of Biosurgery and Surgical Technology, Imperial College , London
  1. a.darzi{at}

    The implications of medical technology, showcased in a new exhibition, are tremendous for patients and doctors, says Ara Darzi

    From aeroplanes to the desktop computer, the technological innovations of the past century have transformed the way we live now. It is therefore curious that, while it is considered perfectly normal to send people into orbit, there is a widespread expectation that traditional manual dissections should dominate the practice of surgery.

    The Royal College of Surgeons’ engaging new exhibition trains a spotlight on this anachronism. Sci-Fi Surgery/Medical Robots traces the progress of medical robotics from its origins in the 1980s to the most current trends in research, and is designed as an introduction for clinicians and the general public.

    Medical robots came to the fore in tandem with the rapid advance of computer technology, but as Sci-Fi Surgery makes clear, this concept was already circulating in the medical community and in popular culture. The exhibition deftly demonstrates the way in which the concept of medical robots carries an innately futuristic quality that both fascinates and frightens. However, medical robotics has the potential to revolutionise the field of surgery, and is already improving surgical accuracy, training, and, most importantly, quality of care.

    The exhibition charts this progress chronologically, beginning with the first use of robotic technology in …

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