The 79-year-old grandfather and his granddaughter were told by a doctor that his lungs were failing through a robot and even the hospital thinks it "unusual".
One of the hardest things to hear about a loved one from a doctor is that they will be leaving you soon and in those moments of grief and shock, having a human touch from the one delivering the news can make a lot of difference. But what happens when that sense of humaneness is lacking? For one family that got the painful news about their aging old grandfather, it was "devastating".
When 79-year-old Ernest Quintana went to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center's emergency department in Fremont, California for a diagnosis with his granddaughter, the two were already quite worried already, but what happened during the visit left them shocked. According to San Francisco Bay Area news station KTVU, Quintana was told that he was going to die soon by a "doctor" that appeared on a video screen.
Quintana's granddaughter, Annalisia Wilharm was with him in the intensive care unit (ICU) when they were told by a nurse that a doctor would be making rounds soon. "I thought 'OK, no big deal, I'm here,'" she said. Wilharm said that soon a robot, RP-VITA, arrived in the room so that the doctor could communicate with them about the findings. So, Annalisia recorded a video of the communication to show her mother as well as her grandmother, who has been married to Quintana for 58 years.
Instead of a living and breathing human to communicate the delicate message, Ernest and his granddaughter were informed by a robot that his lungs were failing and, barely three days later, the 79-year-old passed away.
His family is demanding that nobody should be informed about tragic news through an inhumane method like this. Wilharm was "devastated." "I was going to lose my grandfather. We knew that this was coming and that he was very sick. But I don't think somebody should get the news delivered that way. It should have been a human being," she said.
According to the company that made the robot, it is supposed to be humane and after thirty seconds of interaction the person is supposed to forget that it is a robot they are speaking to and instead focus on the body language, but Quintana's family differs and how.
"I don't want this to happen to anyone else. It just shouldn't happen," Quintana's daughter, Catherine, told KTVU. Catherine also said that her father was hard of hearing and had trouble understanding the message relayed through the robot's speakers forcing her daughter to tell him the terrible news.
In response, the Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice-President Michelle Gaskill-Hames offered her condolences in a statement. She said that this was a highly unusual situation.
"We use video technology as an appropriate enhancement to the care team, and a way to bring additional consultative expertise to the bedside. This is a highly unusual circumstance. We regret falling short in meeting the patient's and family's expectations in this situation and we will use this as an opportunity to review our practices and standards with the care team," she said, according to DailyMail.
The hospital may have apologized and the doctor himself may be feeling guilty for relaying the news through a screen, but there's no denying that finding out someone you love and deeply care about is dying soon via a robot only makes recieving the news twice as painful.