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Da Vinci Surgical Robot Lawsuit Filed in Washington Can Proceed

Despite efforts by Intuitive Surgical’s legal team to stop a Washington products liability case that is seeking damages for injuries allegedly caused by the Da Vinci surgical robot, a judge has decided that the wrongful death case can proceed. Per the Da Vinci Surgical Robot lawsuit, the victim underwent surgery prostate removal surgery with a Vinci surgical robot in 2008. The operating physician, who reportedly hadn’t used the surgical device without supervision before, allegedly made numerous errors that caused the patient to sustain a rectal tear, permanent incontinence, kidney failure, and brain damage—complications that proved deadly. The victim’s family contends that it was manufacturer Intuitive Surgical’s responsibility to make sure that all physicians who operate using the robotic surgical system are properly trained.

Surgical Robot Claims
The Da Vinci surgical robot is the only device of its kind in the US that has received Food and Drug Administration approval for commercial use. Weighing over 1000 pounds, standing at about 6 feet tall, and possessing three spider-like arms, a surgeon uses hand and foot levers to manipulate the arms while looking at computer images of the patient, who is usually at least 10 feet away.

Tens of thousand Da Vinci robot-assisted surgeries have already been performed. Yet there is growing concern about the medical device’s effectiveness. According to a recent Duke University study, although men who underwent a traditional laparoscopic procedure and those that had one done robotically experienced similar side effects, the latter were more likely to experience postoperative regret than the first group. Also, a 2009 national study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that those who had even minimally invasive robotic prostatectomy were more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction, incontinence, and other genitourinary complications than their counterparts who underwent the same procedure but without the help of a surgical robot. (In a more recent study, researchers who studied hysterectomy patients that underwent either robotic or laparoscopic surgery reportedly showed no differences in pain, loss of blood, or recovery. However, the robotic surgery took over an hour longer and was more costly.)

That there have been a number of recent incidents involving patients seriously hurt or killed during a surgical robot procedure has done nothing to allay such worries. Injuries reported have included electrical burns from the machine’s electrical current, cuts to internal organs, peritonitis, heavy bleeding, sepsis, punctured body parts, bowel injuries, ureter injuries, vaginal cuff dehiscence, and wrongful death.

Common causes of injuries and deaths include poorly trained surgeons and defective robotic equipment. Regarding the need for training, experienced doctors have said that it can take up to 300 robot-assisted operations to become proficient. This, even though the manufacturer only requires an operating doctor to watch other surgeons operating with the surgical robot and take a training course lasting two to three days. In some robotic surgery cases, Intuitive Surgical is accused of putting sales and profit over the safety of patients.

You may have grounds for a Da Vinci Surgical Robot lawsuit against Intuitive Surgical, the hospital where the botched procedure took place, and/or the doctor that performed the procedure.

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