Monday, February 09, 2009

Remote Murder?

I did a post not long ago about the possibility of using computer technology to commit murder.

David Schumann, a Wisconsin lawyer and proprietor of the GPS Evidence Issues blog, recently sent me an email suggesting a new and pretty devious way to commit computer murder.

He pointed out that in an era of remote surgery, “simply reprogramming the depth of a cut to be made could look like a bad accident, when it was really murder.” I found that a very intriguing suggestion so, knowing absolutely nothing about remote surgery, I checked it out.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about remote surgery:
Remote surgery . . . is the ability for a doctor to perform surgery on a patient even though they are not physically in the same location. It is a form of telepresence. Remote surgery combines elements of robotics, . . . communication technology such as high-speed data connections and elements of management information systems. . . . Remote surgery is essentially advanced telecommuting for surgeons, where the physical distance between the surgeon and the patient is immaterial. It promises to allow the expertise of specialized surgeons to be available to patients worldwide, without the need for patients to travel beyond their local hospital.
It’s apparently been around at least since 2001.

The Wikipedia entry also points out another type of surgery – unassisted robotic surgery – that might, at least theoretically, be exploited to commit murder:
As the techniques of expert surgeons are studied and stored in special computer systems, robots might one day be able to perform surgeries with . . . no human input. Carlo Pappone, an Italian surgeon, has developed a software program that uses data collected from several surgeons and thousands of operations to perform the surgery without human intervention.
I can’t find any cases dealing with remote surgery issues, but there are at least two law review articles specifically dedicated to what they call “cybersurgery.” Both give scenarios in which telecommunication or other glitches result in the patient’s either dying on the operating room table or suffering some kind of injury. I can’t find any discussion of the obvious possibility of hacking a remote surgery and making it look like a technical glitch caused the patient’s death when, in fact, it was homicide.

Interesting scenarios. Thanks, David.

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