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Da Vinci Robot Lawsuit

scales of justice on tableSince its approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000, the da Vinci robot  has represented the latest wave in surgical technology, and has been hailed as such—in hospital rooms across the country, on magazine covers and even in T.V. shows like “Grey’s Anatomy.”

The robot’s smaller, more delicate incisions supposedly allow surgeons to avoid cutting into the abdomen, promising smoother, less invasive surgeries, with greater precision, less bleeding, and quicker recovery times for patients.

But now a fresh crop of da Vinci robot lawsuits is calling into question these claims of greater precision and fewer complications, and is raising concerns about other more serious robotic surgery complications linked to the surgical robot system.

With over 20 years winning defective medical device claims for our clients, Eisbrouch & Marsh personal injury lawyers are here to help victims of botched robotic surgery.

Da Vinci robot surgery overview

By all appearances, the da Vinci robot sports all the bells and whistles of a brave new world’s answer to operating room technology: from the console, or control system where the surgeon sits, dictating the robot’s movements; to the patient cart where the patient lies during the surgery; to the four robotic arms, high-definition 3D vision system and the EndoWrist instruments, designed with seven degrees of motion (boasting a greater range of motion than that of the human wrist), each designated a particular task, like clamping, suturing or manipulating tissue.

Dictating commands from her console, the surgeon uses the robot’s remote-controlled arms and hands to perform the surgery, which can include any one of the following:

  • Hysterectomies (removal of the uterus)
  • Prostatectomies (prostate removal)
  • Gastric bypasses
  • Gall bladder removals
  • Thyroid cancer surgeries
  • Mitral valve prolapse
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Kidney cancer
  • Colectomy (removal of cancerous tissue in the colon)
  • Bladder surgery

Da Vinci robot conplications & complaints against Intuitive Surgical

But is the precision of the da Vinci robot really that of a Renaissance master artist?  Some are saying “no,” that in fact the surgical robot has caused serious complications that could have been avoided. They allege that the maker of the device (Intuitive Surgical) showed negligence in marketing the da Vinci robot despite these complications.

A May 4, 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal recounts some of these injuries attributed to the da Vinci surgical system.  Patients serving as the robot’s first guinea pigs at a small community hospital in New Hampshire received a shock: one patient was so badly injured she required four more procedures to repair the damage; two other patients suffered lacerated bladders. One woman, whose uterus the da Vinci robot surgery accidentally cut, filed a lawsuit against the hospital and the two attending surgeons.

In a March 2013 Bloomberg News article, Intuitive Surgical’s robosurgery device was connected to at least 70 deaths since 2009.  At the time of that article, at least 10 lawsuits against Intuitive had materialized in the previous 14 months.

Complaints of da Vinci surgery complications include:

  • Lacerated or perforated organs
  • Damaged muscles
  • Surgical burns
  • Torn blood vessels
  • Tears and/or burns of the intestines
  • Cut ureters
  • Severe bowel injuries
  • Vaginal cuff dehiscence (separation of the vaginal incision—which may result in abdominal or pelvic contents being expelled through the vaginal opening)

Robotic hysterectomies linked to rare serious condition

One plaintiff, 41-year-old Michelle Zarick, described her ordeal for Bloomberg News.  After agreeing to a robotic hysterectomy to remove growths in her uterus, Zarick heard a “pop” one morning in the bathroom; looking down, she saw her intestine protruding from her vagina.  The rare but serious condition known as “vaginal cuff dehiscence” (when the bowels protrude into the vagina through the separation of the vaginal incision) requires corrective surgery.  Some five years later, Zarick sports a hip-to-hip scar from corrective surgery, and suffers from constipation due to damaged rectal muscles and a diminished sex life.

Zarick is not alone.  She is one of at least several women who have reported abdominal pain and vaginal pressure linked to vaginal cuff dehiscence, as a result of undergoing robotic laparoscopic hysterectomies.

FDA and other groups call for more monitoring of robotic surgery

In the wake of reports like that of Zarick, the FDA has stated that it is surveying hospitals on complications, outcomes, and dangers associated with the Da Vinci robot, in response to an increase in adverse event reports, including organ damage and device failure.  As the popularity of robot surgery has grown, injury reports involving the procedures jumped to at least 115 in 2012 from 24 in 2009, while deaths rose to 30 from 11.

And, in March 2012, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued the following statement:

“While there may be some advantages to the use of robotics in complex hysterectomies, especially for cancer operations…studies have shown that adding this expensive technology for routine surgical care does not improve patient outcomes. Consequently, there is no good data proving that robotic hysterectomy is even as good as—let alone better than—existing, and far less costly, minimally invasive alternatives.”

Meanwhile, more and more lawsuits are pending across the country, with one of them having recently settled for an undisclosed amount; and this year, after starting out with soaring revenues, Intuitive Surgical saw a big dip in its earnings.

Filing a da Vinci robot lawsuit

If you have experienced complications from a robotic procedure, you may have grounds for seeking damages in a da Vinci surgery lawsuit.  The lawyers of Eisbrouch & Marsh have been bringing their insights and expertise to cases like yours for more than 25 years.

Our legal team will:

  • Assess your damages
  • Research and monitor related lawsuits and settlements nationwide
  • Advise you on your best course of action
  • Provide you with competent, reliable legal representation

To arrange your free case review, please call our offices at 201-342-5545.