da Vinci Surgical Robotic Lawsuits Being Filed

Many patients who opted for the da Vinci Surgical Robotic procedure as opposed to traditional surgery did so because they hoped the recovery would be quicker, the loss of blood would be considerably less and their surgical scars would be smaller.  What they didn’t count on were the numerous risks they would face.

Many patients suffered complications following surgery with the robotic device. All the lawsuits are based on similar claims that design defects led to patient injuries or deaths. In many cases, the problems do not present themselves until days after the surgery.

The da Vinci Surgical Robot, manufactured and marketed by Intuitive Surgical of Sunnyvale, California, has been used in thousands of hysterectomies and prostate removal surgeries around the country. It is increasingly being used to perform other procedures, including gastric by-passes, gallbladder removals and thyroid cancer surgeries.  However, several lawsuits involving da Vinci Surgical Robot procedures allege that patients have suffered serious and even deadly injuries, including:

– Tears and/or burns of the intestines
– Punctured blood vessels or cut ureters
– Severe bowel injuries
– Vaginal cuff dehiscence
– Excessive bleeding
– Death

At least one plaintiff involved in a da Vinci Surgical Robot lawsuit alleged that the device is defectively designed. Other lawsuits have alleged that doctors lack the training necessary to use the robot properly.  Critics of the da Vinci Surgical Robot also question the way in which the robot was marketed, accusing Intuitive Surgical for promoting the robot as a way for hospitals to increase revenues and market share.

The da Vinci Surgical Robot is a huge machine which the surgeon operates using joystick-like controls. The robot was designed to provide surgeons with a greater range of movement than the human hand can provide, allowing surgeons to perform abdominal surgery without physically cutting the stomach open. During a da Vinci procedure, robotic arms are placed in the patient to burn away tissue, so a diseased organ may be removed. The goal of surgery via the da Vinci Surgical System is minimally invasive surgery, leading to limited blood loss, smaller incisions and quicker recovery for the patient.

A single da Vinci Surgical Robot costs more than $1 million, but even this high cost has not deterred hospitals from investing in this new technology.  In 2011, about 250,000 hysterectomies and prostate removal surgeries were done with the da Vinci system, according to a report published by the Chicago Tribune.  More recently, surgeons have begun to expand the use of the machines in other procedures, such as gastric by-pass and thyroid cancer surgeries. Recently, U.S. regulators have approved its use for gallbladder surgery.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Intuitive Surgical has marketed the da Vinci to hospitals as a way to increase revenue and gain market share.

Critics have expressed concerns about the way surgeons are trained on the da Vinci. When a hospital purchases a robot, Intuitive Surgical pays for a two-day training course for two surgeons.  While some hospitals provide intensive da Vinci training programs for doctors, other hospitals allow doctors to use the machine without supervision after just a few training cases. Surgeons experienced with the machine told the Journal that proficiency with the technology requires hundreds of cases.

At least one da Vinci lawsuit alleged that the device suffers from design flaws, including un-insulated surgical arms and use of electrical current, which can jump to healthy internal organs and tissue. Various medical groups including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Kaiser Foundation have questioned the usefulness of this expensive robotic surgery when considering the risks that are involved in its use.

Over the past several years, the da Vinci Surgical Robot has been named in lawsuits by people who suffered serious injuries during procedures where it was used, or by their families.

One lawsuit filed by the victim’s wife, alleged that a doctor accidentally cut the patient’s aorta and vena cava while using the da Vinci Surgical Robot to remove a cancerous kidney. This cost him his life. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital allowed doctors who were inexperienced with the robot to perform the surgery. The claim stated that the hospital was more interested in using the new device than ensuring her husband’s safety.

Another plaintiff stated that her ureters were severed during a robotic hysterectomy. The injury resulted from the surgeon’s lack of training on the da Vinci, the suit alleged.

The family of a Chicago man who died following a da Vinci Surgical Robot was awarded $7.5 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit against his doctors. The man died after the doctor who used the robot to remove his spleen accidentally punctured his lower intestine.  By the time the injury was found, two weeks later, it was too late to save his life. The man’s surgeon testified that it was his first time using the robot on a living person, according to documents.

In another case, a victim’s father filed a federal lawsuit alleging complications relating to the use of a da Vinci Surgical Robot that caused the death of his 24-year-old daughter, who underwent a hysterectomy. The robot caused burns to an artery and intestines, which led to her death two weeks later. The lawsuit alleges that the woman’s injuries were the result of design flaws, including un-insulated surgical arms and use of electric current, which can jump to her healthy internal organs and tissue. The lawsuit is believed to be the first suit filed alleging the da Vinci Surgical Robot design defects.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries or complications following a da Vinci Surgical Robotic procedure, you may be eligible to file a personal injury or wrongful death da Vinci Surgical Robot lawsuit seeking compensation from Intuitive Surgical.  For further information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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