Robotic Surgery Litigation
Written By: Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo & Plotkin LLP
An increasing number of product liability lawsuits are being filed by patients who experienced complications following robotic surgery with the da Vinci Surgical System. The da Vinci Surgical Robot, manufactured and marketed by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., was designed to give surgeons a range of movement more precise than the human hand. The robot has been used in thousands of hysterectomies and prostate removal surgeries around the country, and is also being used to perform other procedures, including gastric bypasses, gall bladder removals, and thyroid cancer surgeries. A list of complications thus far include burns or tears; ruptures or dehincenses, which allow organ contents to leak out; internal bleeding; infection; additional surgery; or death.
All of the complaints filed to date allege that Intuitive Surgical aggressively promoted the complex machine as a superior model to traditional surgery without providing sufficient warnings concerning the risk of problems caused by design defects. Evidence suggests that such design defects may allow the electric current from the robotic arms to pass outside of the operative field causing an array of damage to ureters, arteries, blood vessels, the bowel, bladder, vaginal cuff, or other organs and tissue.
Aside from the robot's defective design, other plaintiffs in a da Vinci Surgical Robot lawsuit allege that doctors lack the proper training needed to safely use the robot. When a hospital purchases a robot, which has a price tag upwards of $1 million, Intuitive Surgical pays for a mere two-day training course for two surgeons. While some hospitals have implemented extensive follow-up da Vinci training programs for their doctors, others allow their doctors to use the machine unsupervised after just a handful of training cases. The most alarming thing about that is, surgeons experienced with the machine have admitted that proficiency with such complex technology requires hundreds of cases.
Finally, critics of the da Vinci robot have also questioned the way the product was marketed, pointing the finger at hospitals by suggesting they used this surgical eye candy as a way for hospitals to increase revenues and market share.