Pulled from the pages of a science fiction novel, the future of medicine has a new technological twist. As the old fashioned human surgeon takes a step away from the patient and a step towards the computer, robotic-assisted surgery has been sweeping the world by storm and revolutionizing the method operations are performed. However, like many technological innovations, robotic surgery is not human-proof and the errors can be deadly.
The prominent system for robotic surgery is the Da Vinci Robotic System. This system has been designed to facilitate typically complex surgery with computer assisted precision. The surgeon controls the device from a computer console and the robot arm can go beyond human physical capabilities in delicate procedures. Intuitive Surgical is the company responsible for the system, getting FDA approval in 2000. Since approval, the system gained ground and it is estimated that over 200,000 surgeries were performed by the Da Vinci system in 2012 alone.
With the rise in robot surgeries, a disturbing amount of litigation has developed around the system. Lawsuits alleging burns, lacerations, heat damage to arteries and organs, nerve damage, sepsis, and other injuries caused from the Da Vinci system has created a new futuristic genre of medical malpractice. But like any other technology, the injuries can be traced back to human error. The FDA has even launched an investigation to probe several recent deaths as a result of Da Vinci surgeries. If you or a loved one has encountered pain, suffering, or injury as a result of or in the aftermath of robotic-assisted surgery, you are best advised to contact a knowledgeable Louisiana medical malpractice attorney.
Injuries have spanned the gamut of minor, such as a patient being struck in the face by the robotic arm of the Da Vinci system during surgery as Time magazine reported in their survey of bizarre injuries experienced during robotic surgeries, to more serious injuries including death.
A typical splenectomy that ended fatally for the patient led to a much publicized wrongful death suit against the Da Vinci system. In 2012, a jury awarded the family of an Illinois man $7.5 million in damages after a surgeon, performing his first Da Vinci-assisted surgery on a human patient, accidentally punctured the man’s intestines which led to an infection and ultimately death post-op in 2007.
Another wrongful death suit out of Washington state revealed the deep running flaws in how the Da Vinci surgical system is operated. During the trial, the Director of Marketing for the company responsible for the system, Intuitive Surgical, testified before the jury that the company researched, identified and targeted doctors and surgeons who had a limited surgical history and/or were marked as “lacking in surgical skills”. The system would supposedly aid their abilities and allow hospitals to permit more surgeries. The attorneys for the plaintiffs also alleged that Intuitive Surgical consulted with hospitals to lower standards on who may operate the robotic systems.