Now here's the rub....is robotic surgery any better, or offer benefit above, laparoscopic surgery?
Ultimately it will be since the entire purpose of inserting the robot in the process is to provide finer control and filter out accidental motions that could cause mistakes and complications with traditional, hands-on-the ends-of-sticks laparoscopy.
You would think that that might be the case. An engineer would think that way...I know I did when I was an engineer.
However, you are wrong. You don't understand how surgery is performed. For starters, this is more biology class than chemistry or physics....this is not a photoelectric cell where light above X wavelength will fail to excite the atom out its orbital to produce a current. This is 2 kg of fertilizer (plus or minus 200 g) will produce more robust flowers then 1 kg will. You are dealing with inherently unstable organisms that are extremely fault tolerant because the have to exist in a fault filled world.
The "finer control" is useless (I've seen older surgeons with a horrible tremor perform the most masterful procedures). We're not dividing cell layers, we're dividing tissue planes which usually start to tease apart with gentle traction. We rarely measure things out, and exacting measurements are never used (at least in abdominal surgery which is the vast majority of robotic cases are, cardiac cases usually use blanks to measure the fit of valves and neurosurgeons and ophthalmologists who arguably require the finest motor control do well without a robot and will likely never use one anyway). Say I find a tumor in the colon. I am required to resect back 5 cm on either side...but I will get equally good results at 6 cm, or 7cm. Hell, as long and I leave some of the colon, the patient will do well. A lot of what I do is dictated by where I see the problem....in many cases I have to remove the problem area, plus an extra margin. This is not a 2x4 where it has to fit in precisely, this is a piece of tissue with potentially unseen disease that requires an adequate margin of resection and a good blood supply to heal.
In addition, I think you underrate the level of precision a bare surgeon's hands have, and overrate the about of tolerance the human body has.
Most complications are acts of omission not commission. Meaning, you did something without knowing it (using the electrocautery too long or not realizing that it was too close to another structure resulting in transfer of thermal injury). This type of problem will not - can not - be overcome with the robot. Other causes of complications include equipment malfunction or mis-use (such as a stapler failing), and ultimately poor surgical judgement. So basically, a robot adds nothing to reducing the complication rate, and rather adds a new level of complexity to the problem. Is that an improvement?
I spent two years looking into ways to use the precision of the robot to improve general surgery. Came up blank. We designed a few new attachments for it....but they mostly mimicked things that already existed for open surgery, or were needed to overcome some constraint imposed by the robot.
Right now it's use is limited by the number of approved procedures and the pack of wolves salivating at the prospect for waves of lawsuits against the manufacturer and operators. This limits the amount of data being produced to evaluate its effectiveness.
The only real future applications will be for tele-surgery, which with global travel being what it is, still hasn't reached any level of significance other than: "Hey we can do this!"