By Paul D. Rheingold
A respected securities analyst, Northland Securities, Inc. released a March 2013 advisory regarding Intuitive Surgical’s stock valuation. Due to the shortcomings of Intuitive’s primary product, the da Vinci robotic surgical system, the current stock value is exceedingly high. Part of the downward valuation comes is related to poor outcomes with prostate and hysterectomy surgeries, something stock patients, doctors and hospitals are not fully aware of.
The report details high pressure sales techniques and inadequate training as several reasons for poor surgical outcomes. The Northland analysis of risks to the patient in performing hysterectomies (and related gynecological surgery) is most valuable. First of all, it brings out that there are no true comparative studies. When Intuitive claims there is less bleeding or other problems using its robot system versus more conventional surgery, there are no randomized trials comparing them. Such studies in peer reviewed literature are the “gold standard” for a scientifically valid evaluation, which courts would recognize as “good science.”
Complications associated with the hysterectomy surgery via the da Vinci include vaginal cuff problems, bleeding, injury to vessels and intestines, ileus, infections, lymphadema, and DVT. The incidence of these problems during robot use is compared to the more traditional methods to remove the uterus.
Northland’s 64-page report focuses on the disparity of medical standards for how many surgeries a doctor needs to complete before he is proficient with the robot system. There is an obvious learning curve which Intuitive Surgical minimizes in order to promote the machine. However, real world experience shows that there will be the unfortunate “guinea pig” patients where surgeries will take longer and have higher risks due to inexperienced surgeons. Depending on the surgery, estimates can be as high has 500 procedures before a doctor is “proficient.”
At Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo & Plotkin LLP we have a team of experienced trial lawyers in the fields of product liability and medical malpractice. Along with our full time nurse-paralegal, we investigate severe injury and wrongful death claims, filing suit on those which are meritorious. All new clients will speak directly with our senior litigation partner, Paul Rheingold, who was the first lawyer to file a robotic surgery suit in New York, and the only lawyer in New York to have received litigation documents from Intuitive Surgical. Our firm works with a consortium of attorneys around the nation, so clients with our firm have access to a network of lawyers at the lead of the da Vinci Surgery System litigation.