da Vinci Robotic Surgery – Injuries, Accidents, Deaths and Lawsuits

The da Vinci® Surgical System involves the use of a robotic platform designed to enable to surgeon better capability during prostate surgery. It is touted to overcome the limitations of both traditional open surgery and conventionally minimally invasive surgery. The multi-armed robot named da Vinci was used in approximately 400,000 surgeries nationwide last year. This was more than triple the number performed four years earlier. There have been many problems and incidents reported with this method.

Sleep-apnea (250)Prostate cancer patients like the idea of a surgery which can be performed safely and efficient.  They are concerned about their quality of life after surgery. Many of these patients believe that the da Vinci method provides superior results than a tradiional prostate surgery. However, many physicians question the value of using this method and indicate that there is insufficient research to prove that robotic surgery is equal to or better than conventional surgeries. Furthermore, there appear to be many problems with this method including inadequate training of doctors qualified to perform this surgery.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is keeping a close eye on da Vinci Robotic Surgery as reports of post-surgery deaths begin to surface (i). The da Vinci Robotic Surgery had been promoted as a robot that can perform minimally invasive and precise procedures just as well if not better than doctors. Moreover, doctors would have to be more invasive in performing the surgeries that the robot can perform with minimal invasion.

The manufacture has been under scrutiny as numerous accidents and a number of deaths that had been linked to the use of the robot according to the Fox News April of 2013 report ‘Robot Surgeries Hot Among Surgeons but FDA Taking a New Look (ii).’ One example of an incident that was reported included a robot hand refusing to let go of the tissue and the entire system had to be shut down in order to release the tissue (i). Doctors are increasingly admitting that the robot procedures may not be nearly as effective as the conventional procedures and are discouraging hospitals from adopting that method (iii).

Most importantly, lawsuits have been alleging inadequate training for surgeons that perform the extremely risky procedure. One of these medical malpractice cases was a wrongful death suit in which the plaintiff received a $7.5 million jury award because of the alleged lack of training for the surgeons (Lenika Fernandez, etc. v. George Salti M.D., et al. No. 08 L 1117). According the case, the plaintiff’s family member died, during the surgery to remove his spleen, due to the surgeons accidentally punctured a part of his intestines, leading to a fatal infection. Read more here: