This paper introduces the benefits of exploiting elasticity in the engineering design of surgical tools, in general, and of minimally invasive procedures, in particular. Compliant mechanisms are jointless mechanisms that rely on elastic deformation to transmit forces and motion. The lack of traditional joints in these single-piece flexible structures offers many benefits, including the absence of wear debris, pinch points, crevices, and lubrication. Such systems are particularly amenable to embedded sensing for haptic feedback and embedded actuation with active-material actuators. The paper provides an overview of design synthesis methods developed at the Compliant Systems Design Laboratory and focuses specifically on surgical applications. Compliant systems have potential to integrate well within the constraints of laparoscopic procedures and telerobotic surgery. A load-path representation is used within a genetic algorithm to solve two gripper example problems. In addition, the paper illustrates the design and construction of an organ (kidney) manipulator for use in minimally invasive procedures.