Teaching A Monkey To Operate

Wed, 11/23/2011 - 2:59am

“I could teach a monkey how to operate” or so some people think. This cliché has been around for years. Recently, I saw it on a Sermo [MD gripe site] post and someone said it in a comment on one of my blogs. The other day I used it in a tweet trying to entice people to read my blog on the pitfalls of dictating. And then I thought about it.

I will admit that many procedures we do are simple. I have taught physician assistants to perform such tasks as closing a wound, excising small skin lesions, draining abscesses and the like. PAs who work in cardiac surgery can harvest veins and perform other more advanced procedures. When I was teaching residents, I taught them just about all types of operations, from the most basic to the most complex.

But a Medline search has failed to produce even one paper showing that a monkey has successfully been taught to operate on even another monkey. Even if a monkey could be taught to operate, would she know when and on whom to operate?

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