The da Vinci Surgical System is a complex robotic tool used by physicians worldwide to perform surgical procedures. Most commonly, surgeons use the device for prostatectomies, gynecologic surgery and heart valve repairs. In spite of the device's supposed benefits, however, news has come forward regarding the dangers of the machine. Indeed, injured victims and family members of deceased victims are claiming that the device has caused catastrophic injury and even death.
The company that manufactures this robot device, Intuitive Surgical, has produced a vast array of marketing literature specifically aimed at convincing surgeons of the da Vinci device's value while persuading patients to believe that it is a safe and trustworthy machine. According to Intuitive Surgical, the machine is helpful to surgeons who wish to perform incredibly precise movements during surgery. The device is also said to include a three dimensional, high-definition vision system that helps surgeons do their jobs faster, cheaper and better. Supposedly, the machine provides a level of dexterity and control to surgeons that would be humanly impossible otherwise. The device manufacturer says that a surgeon, who sits at a remote control console, operates the three to four-limbed robot. It also says that da Vinci procedures are less invasive than traditional surgical methods.
Because of the touted benefits, health service providers throughout the world are spending millions of dollars to buy these machines. A total of 2116 da Vinci machines are being used in the United States, while another 923 are being used in other countries.
In spite of the incredible claims associated with the da Vinci system, the dangers of this medical device have been investigated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and numerous lawsuits have been initiated by people who say that they and/or their loved ones have been injured or killed by the da Vinci System robot and the negligent actions of its manufacturer or surgeons who use the device.
According to allegations, a lot of surgeons using this sharply implemented, four-armed robot have not been properly trained and/or do not have the appropriate level of surgical skill required to use the device. With an unskilled surgeon at the helm of such complicated machinery, injury and deadly accidents are much more likely to occur. Indeed, lawsuits allege that insufficiently prepared surgeons using the machine have caused failed surgical procedures, accidents and death. Other strange incidents have also been connected to the device, such as electrical burns. It was even reported that an out-of-control da Vinci robot arm hit an unconscious patient in the face during a procedure.
In July 2013, the FDA issued a warning letter to Intuitive Surgery regarding a series of violations. The FDA said that Intuitive Surgical had not reported actions that were necessary to prevent patients from suffering accidental electrical burns during surgical procedures. The federal agency further claimed that the manufacturer failed to comply with rules associated with the documentation of its equipment design. In April 2014, the FDA issued a new letter stating that Intuitive Surgical had addressed these violations satisfactorily.
Various medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed relating to injuries caused by the da Vinci System robot. One such case resulted in a jury award of $7.5 million to family members of a man who died after going through an operation involving the device. The lawsuit claimed the man's intestines were perforated during a spleen surgery. Tragically, the intestinal perforation resulted in infection and death.
Another lawsuit claimed that a patient died from heart failure due to da Vinci device problems four years after receiving a da Vinci surgical procedure. Court documents filed by the man's widow alleged that her late husband's death was caused by complications suffered during a prostatectomy procedure. What was supposed to be a five-hour procedure caused the operation to last over 13 hours. The patient suffered lung and kidney damage, which eventually led to his death.
The primary allegation in this second lawsuit is that Intuitive Surgical neglected to appropriately train the surgeon who was using the da Vinci device that performed the procedure. In support of these claims, a witness testified under oath that Intuitive Surgical was marketing its machines to surgeons it knew were less skilled. In fact, the allegations state that the manufacturer specifically sought out less skilled surgeons as a part of its marketing strategy. Allegedly, da Vinci System salesmen convinced hospitals to lower the standards that surgeons were supposed to meet in order to use the device. The plaintiff claims that salesmen even played a role in choosing specific surgeries in which doctors should use the da Vinci device over other, more conventional methods.
Patients, as well as the family members of deceased patients, who suspect that they or their loved ones were harmed in a da Vinci System surgical procedure, may wish to investigate the viability of pursuing financial restitution through civil litigation. A personal injury lawyer can be of great assistance to victims in evaluating the potential strengths and/or weaknesses of pursuing such a claim. Medical records, witnesses testimony, case law and the success of similar cases can be reviewed in order to determine the best legal strategy for the pursuit of such a claim.
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