News & Opinion | March 11, 2019 12:46 pm

“Robot” Delivered End-of-Life News to a Patient, Outraging His Family

The machine wasn't loud enough for the patient to hear or understand what he was being told.

Man Chooses to Die, But Not Before Showing Up at His Own Irish Wake
(BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)

A 78-year-old California patient recently received his end-of-life news via a robot operated by his doctor — prompting the man’s angry family to go public with their story.

Ernest Quintana was admitted to the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center emergency department in Fremont, California on March 3, his granddaughter, Annalisia Wilharm, told USA Today.

The elderly man was suffering from symptoms associated with the chronic lung disease that would rob him of his life.

After he received his diagnosis, a follow-up visit at Quintana’s intensive care unit room was made by a machine accompanied by a nurse. The “robot,” as Wilharm and her family refer to the machine, displayed a video of a remote doctor who communicated with Quintana.

The video exchange that Wilharm gave to USA Today showed the machine being used on that Monday to tell grandfather and granddaughter that the hospital had run out of effective treatments.

“If you’re coming to tell us normal news, that’s fine, but if you’re coming to tell us there’s no lung left and we want to put you on a morphine drip until you die, it should be done by a human being and not a machine,” Catherine Quintana, Ernest’s daughter and Wilharm’s mother, said Friday.

Ernest Quintana died a day later, Wilharm said.

In response, the hospital said the situation was highly unusual and officials “regret falling short” of the patient’s expectations.

“The evening video tele-visit was a follow-up to earlier physician visits,” Gaskill-Hames, senior vice president of Kaiser Permanente Greater Southern Alameda County, said. “It did not replace previous conversations with patient and family members and was not used in the delivery of the initial diagnosis.”