On May 23, 2013, a jury in Washington State rendered its verdict in favor of Intuitive Surgical, Inc. (“Intuitive”), the manufacturer of the robotic surgery equipment known as the da Vinci Surgical System, after a five-week trial during which the plaintiff alleged that Intuitive was negligent in its training of doctors using the company’s da Vinci robotic surgery system. The case arose out of the prostate removal surgery performed in September 2008 using the da Vinci Surgical System by a surgeon who was performing his first unassisted procedure during which the patient suffered complications, including an injury to the man’s rectum, that resulted in the man’s death four years later.
The man’s da Vinci robotic surgery was performed on September 9, 2008 and should have taken five hours. Instead, various complications during the surgery caused it to take thirteen hours. After the surgery, the previously active 67-year-old retiree was left incontinent, had to use a colostomy bag, and suffered kidney damage, lung damage, a stroke, and sepsis.
The man’s surgeon had been given one day of hands-on training by Intuitive and had two practice runs using the da Vinci robot under the supervision of an experienced da Vinci surgeon before he used the da Vinci on the nearly 300 pound man. The surgeon claimed that Intuitive did not warn him that the obese man was not a candidate for da Vinci surgery because of the surgeon’s limited experience in using the equipment.
The plaintiff (the estate of the man who died) alleged that Intuitive failed to properly train the man’s surgeon in performing prostate removal surgery using the da Vinci and the failure of proper training led to the man’s surgical complications and his death. Intuitive argued to the jury that it had advised the man’s surgeon to not use the da Vinci Surgical System on obese patients until the surgeon had more experience using the da Vinci and that the surgeon failed to follow its advice. Intuitive also argued that the man’s rectal injury occurred after the surgery.
After the jury announced its verdict in favor of Intuitive, the company issued the following statement: “We are pleased with the jury’s verdict. Intuitive Surgical’s technologies have extended the benefits of minimally invasive surgery to over 1.5 million patients around the world. We will continue our commitment to patients, surgeons and hospitals to uphold the highest standards of safety.”
It has been reported that Intuitive notified its customers earlier this month about a potential defect in a scissor instrument used with the da Vinci Surgical System; in February of this year, a study of 264,758 women who had laparoscopic or robotically assisted hysterectomy found that robotic surgeries were no better than traditional surgeries with regard to hysterectomies; and, some have questioned the cost-benefit of da Vinci procedures compared to other minimally-invasive surgeries. Intuitive still faces in excess of 20 other product-liability lawsuits in the United States.
If you or someone you know have suffered complications or other injuries during or following da Vinci surgery, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney who may agree to investigate your possible da Vinci claim for you and file a da Vinci claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
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