The litigation involving injuries which occur during surgery done with the da Vinci robot which our firm is handling was described by Bloomberg news on March 5th, see http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-05/robosurgery-suits-detail-injuries-as-death-reports-rise.html
The reporter, Robert Langreth, interviewed Paul D. Rheingold, partner in the New York law firm of Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo & Plotkin LLP LLP, in relation to a lawsuit our firm has started for the death of a 24 year old woman where the robot was used in a hysterectomy. It caused burns to an artery, cutting off circulation to her bowels leading to a condition which the operative note described as “incompatible with life.”
In the New York suit, McCalla v. Intuitive Surgical Inc., the reporter not only spoke with our firm but also spoke with our client, Gilmore McCalla, father of the decedent, and read the pertinent records. Among those we made available to him was the death certificate which characterizes the death as due to “therapeutic complications.”
There may also be an aspect of medical malpractice involved in an injury while the surgeon is manipulating the robot. Often this is in failure to detect an injury caused by the robot and treat it in timely fashion. In the McCalla case itself, we are also suing the surgeon and hospital on these grounds.
Our firm has recently presented as claims to Intuitive Surgical cases where the following mishaps have occurred:
*9 hours of surgery attempting to reattach the urethra to the bladder after doing a prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland). There was a problem with the stitcher. This led to urinary incontinence. Connecticut case
*vaginal cuff dehiscence several months after a hysterectomy. While our client was having intercourse, her intestines fell out of her vagina. Arkansas case
*nerve damage, lymphadema and pain following a hysterectomy. New York City case
The contentions in these cases are based, first of all, on defects in the design of the machine, often due to stray electrical currents (arcing). But an equally strong aspect of the liability is based on failure to train doctors properly on the machine, and lax credentialing. Many sources state that a doctor has to do 100 or more of these surgeries before he is proficient on them. Some of the clients who call us were one of the first to have surgery from a particular doctor, making them guinea pigs by our way of thinking.
Our point of view on these cases was just enhanced by the proclamation by the prestigious American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist on March 15 that the robot should not be used for routine hysterectomies (cancer cases aside). They refer to the extra cost of this method plus risks involved. A hospital can pay up to $2 million to buy a machine and then pay large annual sums for maintenance and supplies.