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Da Vinci Robot Surgery Lawsuits

Since their debut in the 1980s, robotically assisted surgeries have become increasingly common. In a robotically assisted procedure, a surgeon uses a robot to manipulate instruments. This allows for more precise control of incision and removal.

Robots reduce a surgeon's stress and fatigue, especially during longer operations. In addition, the robotic arms are remarkably steady. This allegedly helps reduce patient recovery times and potential surgical errors.

Intuitive Surgical introduced the da Vinci surgical system in 2000. This was when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the medical device. It quickly became a popular robotic device. Today, more than 1,400 hospitals in the U.S. use da Vinci systems. Doctors have used these robotic surgery devices in millions of procedures. Some of the more common procedures that use the da Vinci robotic systems include the following:

  • Cancer operations
  • Urologic procedures
  • Gallbladder removals
  • Hysterectomies

Here, we'll describe the health risks of the da Vinci robot surgery system. We will also discuss the history of Da Vinci robot surgery lawsuits. Finally, we'll explain how to pursue a product liability lawsuit against the medical device manufacturer.

Da Vinci Surgical Robot Problems and FDA Warnings

Thousands of American hospitals and other medical facilities use Intuitive Surgical Inc.'s Da Vinci surgical robots. Unfortunately, numerous reports have shown that Da Vinci surgical robots can be dangerous. Thousands of patients have reported adverse events after having minimally invasive surgery. As a result, many of these patients have filed personal injury lawsuits against Intuitive Surgical.

The various claims plaintiffs have made against the manufacturer include:

  • Robotic systems latch on to patient tissue, causing perforations and other damage
  • Faulty surgical tips cause burns and injury to organs and tissue
  • Improper suture of vaginal cuffs during hysterectomies

In extreme cases, some da Vinci robots have committed fatal mistakes during surgical procedures, leading to severe injuries and even death.

When the FDA learned about these risks, it sent a warning letter to Intuitive at its headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. The 2013 letter criticized Intuitive's safety notification procedures. According to the FDA, Intuitive failed to report many da Vinci surgical system malfunctions. The FDA also criticized the company for failing to include instructions on how to clean da Vinci's robotic instruments. Improper cleaning can damage the robots and expose patients to dangerous germs and infections.

Robotic Surgery and Product Liability

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Intuitive Surgical cited 93 lawsuits in its 2014 financial reports. As of mid-2014, the company had set aside more than $77 million to settle pending cases.

By 2018, the number of adverse events involving Intuitive's da Vinci Robotic Surgery system increased to more than 20,000. More than 2,000 of these reports involved severe injuries. Another 274 reported the death of a patient as a result of issues with the surgical system.

Many of these reports involved a problem with the device's insulation. Many patients filed product liability cases against Intuitive, alleging that its da Vinci surgical device caused severe burns and other injuries.

According to the plaintiffs, these insulation problems cause electrical currents to leak from the device into patients' bodies. This leakage caused severe burns. In some cases, patients died from these burn injuries.

In a recent case, a Florida man named Harvey Sultzer sued Intuitive for wrongful death. His wife Sandra underwent surgery for her colon cancer in September 2021. The electrical currents leaking from the defective device burned her small intestines. Her injuries were so severe she ended up passing away in February 2022.

Under product liability, you must show that you suffered an injury due to a defective product. Your product liability attorney must demonstrate that the product was unsafe and that the product manufacturer failed to warn about its product's risks.

In a da Vinci robotic surgery case, a plaintiff must show that they suffered an injury due to a defect in the surgical device. They must also demonstrate that Intuitive Surgical didn't warn them about the device's potential risks.

Medical Malpractice

Patients injured by the da Vinci robotic system may also file a medical malpractice lawsuit. It depends on the circumstances. Under medical malpractice law, doctors and hospitals may be liable for damages if they act negligently.

With the da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits, patients may claim that their surgeon wasn't adequately trained on how to use the device. They can also argue that the hospital or surgical facility didn't properly clean and maintain the system. If they can prove that these acts led to patient injuries, they may be able to collect damages.

Another way a doctor can be liable for medical malpractice is if they didn't warn their patient about the risks of the surgical device.

If you can prove any of the above, you may recover damages. Some of these include:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages

It's worth noting that judges rarely award punitive damages in these cases. Your attorney would have to prove that the defendant behaved recklessly or intentionally. This isn't easy to prove.

Wrongful Death

People who have lost a close relative to a da Vinci surgical system malfunction may file a wrongful death lawsuit against Intuitive. Under wrongful death laws, family members may sue the party responsible for their loved one's death.

In a successful wrongful death lawsuit, relatives may recover compensation for the following:

  • Medical and funeral expenses
  • The loss of the deceased's financial assistance
  • The loss of comfort and companionship

Talk to an Attorney About Your Da Vinci Robot Surgery Lawsuit

Filing a da Vinci injury lawsuit is complex, often requiring medical evidence, expert witnesses, and a detailed knowledge of product liability law. As a result, it's in your best interests to consult with an attorney experienced with medical device cases before deciding on a course of action.

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