As The Popularity Of The Da Vinci Robot Surgery Has Grown, So Has The Number of Injuries
In 2004, the Da Vinci Robot was used in millions of surgeries throughout the United States. The robots are used in more than 2,000 hospitals in the United States and cost nearly $2 million each. Robots and related products generated most of the manufacture’s $2.2 billion in revenue in 2012. Since the Da Vinci recall in 2012, the estimated cost of settling alleged complications reached the amount of almost $67 million. The complications of the Da Vinci Robotic Surgery System includes severe bowel injuries, organ damage, surgical burns, punctured organs, nerve damage, excessive bleeding and even death.
Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of the Da Vinci robot, is facing several lawsuits filed by people claiming they were injured during surgery. The first lawsuit (Fred Taylor, et al. versus Intuitive Surgical Inc.) has gone before a jury in Port Orchard, Kitsap County, Washington. The plaintiff’s lawyer argued that Intuitive’s most egregious negligence was its recommendation that surgeons are adequately trained and prepared to perform surgical procedures after just two supervised surgeries in a single day with the Da Vinci at the company’s headquarters in Sunnyvale. Jurors reached their verdict in the first Da Vinci Surgical Robot death case on May 23, 2013, and found that Intuitive did not fail to provide adequate training to the surgeon who used the device.
Fred Taylor was Dr. Bildsten’s first patient using the Da Vinci Robot unassisted. The doctor testified during the trial that Intuitive deemed him capable of using the device. In this type of surgery, the doctor sits several feet from the patient and is guided by a camera that shows the work on a high-definition display. Hand controls and foot pedals maneuver mechanical arms equipped with surgical tools. According to testimony, the surgery in 2008 with the Da Vinci Robot went wrong and hours later other doctors had to assist Dr. Bildsten with traditional surgery and emergency care in order to repair a rectal laceration. The surgery should have been a routine prostatectomy, but Fred Taylor developed severe complications that ultimately led to his death four years later.
Da Vinci Caused Severe Injuries and Deaths
On January 5, 2007, 49-year-old Juan Fernandez underwent surgery at the UIC Medical Center. The Da Vinci Robot was used to remove Fernandez’s spleen. Two weeks later, the patient was back in the hospital with infection that also resulted into brain damage and organ failure before he slipped into a coma. The surgeons found two puncture holes in the duodenum caused by the robotic surgical system. Juan Fernandez died tragically on February 8, 2007, as a result of the damage done to the duodenum. The case was tried in the Circuit Court of Cook County in front of Honorable James Flannery. The Fernandez family attorney argued that the robot was unnecessary and conventional surgery would have been better. Jurors awarded the family $7.5 million.
On June 18, 2013, a 65-year-old man suffered severe nerve damage while undergoing a laparoscopic prostatectomy with a Da Vinci Surgical Robot. According to The Expert Institute Report, the patient’s legs were placed in stirrups and his hands insulated by foam pads. The patient was then tipped to the back into the Trendelenburg position in which he subsequently remained for more than six hours. A nurse noticed blisters and strap marks on the patient’s arm from a blood pressure cuff that was left contracted for a prolonged period of time. Neurological exams revealed nerve injuries from compression. It took several conventional surgeries to correct the damage.
Demand for Robot Surgery
Intuitive Surgical launched a brilliantly evil marketing campaign aimed directly at consumers and hospitals. The company advertised the superiority of robot surgery and went on sale calls to hospitals across the nation. One of the clever marketing strategies included that any hospital failing to invest would fail in competition with other hospitals buying the device. Sales have been booming.
Da Vinci Robot Surgery Versus Conventional Surgery
Although promotional videos show the Da Vinci, surgical robot is so precise, lawsuits allege it has caused substantial injuries. Intuitive issued an Urgent Medical Device Notification on May 8 last year regarding the Hot Shears or Monopolar Curved Scissors saying the device deployed on one of the arms may develop micro cracks.
In 2012, the tip covers for the scissors were recalled and the company shipped replacement devices to all Da Vinci owners. At least two of the cases against Intuitive were settled out of court. A reporter at NBC News asked a spokeswoman from Intuitive, Angela Wonson, why the company waited until after the lawsuits before they replaced the device. Wonson said she could not say that her company changed anything based on those lawsuits.
Researchers from the John Hopkins University say there is a lack of scientific evidence that the Da Vinci Robot surgery is any better than conventional operations. The team also said that the benefits of the surgical robots are overestimated, and the risks are largely ignored.
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