The Robots of Tomorrow are Here Today

In order to continually grow and modernize their surgical capabilities, hospitals and surgical centers across the country increasingly incorporate the use of robotic devices in patient services. Hospital owners understand the importance of staying at least one step ahead of the competition – and many hospital administrative teams believe that one way accomplishes this goal is to purchase and own high-tech robotic surgical systems – sometimes without fully understanding the risks and potential liabilities.

Manufacturers of these devices are acutely aware of this mindset, and company reps are all too happy to do what it takes to get their machines into as many operating rooms as possible. After all, capitalizing on fear and insecurity is a great way to push products.

The da Vinci ® System & Its Role in the Surgical-Care Industry

One such company capitalizing on the surgical industry’s incessant desire for high-tech innovation is a globally leading manufacturer of surgical robots, Intuitive Surgical ® of California. The company’s flagship  product, the da Vinci ®  Surgical System, is a highly-popular remote-controlled “robot.”  

Intuitive ® promises anyone who will listen, especially patients, that this device will help surgeons perform less-expensive, minimally-invasive surgical procedures, smaller incision sizes, and shortened recovery periods.

Technically, the device is not a robot, as it does not function on its own. Rather, highly advanced technology enables the machine to mimic a surgeon’s exact movements as they happen. Through a special console, the surgeon controls the machine through various movements. And, of course, this technology would not be complete without a state-of-the-art HD and 3D vision system, giving surgeons the unmatched capability to see everything in magnified, pristine detail.

Currently, surgeons use the da Vinci ®  system in procedures such as involving cardiology and urology.

So, If Robotic Surgical Devices, Including the da Vinci ® Surgical System,  Are So Great, What’s the Problem?

Over the past several years, members of the medical and legal communities as well as some federal agencies began to intensely scrutinize Intuitive ®  and its cash cow, the da Vinci ® Surgical System. The scrutiny continues to this day and likely will continue into the distant future.

This is due to the fact that the FDA, many hospital boards, and personal injury attorneys became aware of a growing number of complaints of adverse surgical and medical effects on patients who underwent this method of surgery. The incidents triggered a number of lawsuits against the company as well as FDA investigations and mandatory recalls of some components of the da Vinci ® Surgical System.

Does this Mean that I can Sue Intuitive ® if I was Injured During My Robotic Surgery?

The honest answer to this question is: it depends. There may be multiple, possible courses of action depending on the circumstance and facts of your specific case.  At Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, the medical malpractice and products liability legal team specialize in helping those injured during surgeries performed with the da Vinci ® Surgical System or any other type of surgical robot. We routinely investigate patients’ injuries experienced at the time of surgery as well as those injuries that do not show up until well after the surgery.

Our committed, dedicated, and compassionate attorneys also review possible wrongful death claims initiated by families of loved ones who died due to these complications.

Litigating Robotic Surgery Cases: Allegations & Legal Theories

In many of the federal lawsuits filed against Intuitive ®, the plaintiffs allege that the company proximately and directly caused unexpected personal injuries and harm by committing one or more following acts:

  • Failing to provide adequate warnings regarding dangers associated with the use of the da Vinci ®Surgical System
  • Manufacturing/selling a device with one or more design defects
    • As indicated by the existence and availability of safer alternative designs
  • Failing to adequately disclose that a surgeon’s likelihood of achieving favorable patient outcomes is correlated to the surgeon’s degree of experience using the advanced technology of the da Vinci ® Surgical System
  • Failing to adequately and properly educate, train, mentor, and/or supervise the surgeons and surgical team who Intuitive ® knew or should have known would use the da Vinci ® Surgical System to perform patient surgeries.  

Common Injuries Associated with Robotic Surgery and the da Vinci ® Surgical System

Much of the litigation surrounding robotic surgical device companies, particularly Intuitive ®, centers around plaintiffs’ claims that they were injured during their surgeries. Some injuries commonly associated with these high-tech surgical systems include the following:  

  • Severe burns on arteries and internal organs located near the surgical site
  • Lacerations, perforation, and tears to arteries and other blood vessels, bowels, intestines, and other internal organs located near the surgical site
  • Surgical complications that, in order to resolve, necessitate further medical treatments including additional surgeries
  • In some cases, death

In some cases, damage may be caused during the surgery, but in a way that goes undetected by the surgical team. This type of damage may go undetected for a while, discovered only when outward symptoms develop. By that point, it may be too late to repair the initial or subsequent damage.   

Questionable Marketing Tactics . . .

  • Intuitive ® aggressively markets the da Vinci ® surgical system as a superior, minimally-invasive, faster, and less-expensive alternative to traditional surgery.
  • The company touts these supposed patient benefits as truths despite the current nonexistence of medically-reliable data to support such claims.
  • In fact, a number of studies conclude that at the present time, the use of the extremely expensive technology does not result in better patient outcomes when compared to those resulting from traditional surgical care.
  • Interestingly, the FAQ section on the official Intuitive ® website poses the following exact question and answer:
“Q. Are there studies showing that da Vinci Surgery is better than traditional open surgery?

  A. Since 1998, more than 7,000 peer-reviewed publications have appeared in various clinical journals on da Vinci Surgery. The amount of clinical evidence on the da Vinci System is increasing at a rate of 100 publications per month.”

  • This non-responsive answer does nothing to confirm or bolster the company’s claims that its robotic surgical system is “superior” to traditional surgery. In fact, the vague response seems to indicate the contrary.
  • Even more troublesome is that the company website has a specific page dedicated to “Clinical Evidence” which fails to cite any studies that support the company’s primary contention that robotic surgery is “better” than traditional surgery.
  • Because no hospital wishes to be (or simply perceived to be) at a disadvantage, the sales of the da Vinci ® Surgical System continue to rise – despite the relevant evidence or lack thereof.

Berkowitz and Hanna LLC: Trust, Reliability, and Experience Handling Complex and Highly-Technical Robotic Surgery Cases

In order to litigate a case with a defendant such as Intuitive ® or some other local, national, or international manufacturer of robotic surgical devices, you need the most experienced and reputable legal team available. In fact, if you want a chance at reaching a favorable outcome in your case, you need a legal team with the very best trial management skills as well as extensive experience in this specific, highly specialized area of law.

At Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, our medical malpractice, products liability, and commercial litigation attorneys work together to craft legal strategies with the best chances of success. We reach out to various medical, surgical, and industrial experts in order to strengthen your case. We also closely analyze current trends, case law, and best practices in this nuanced area of law.

Contact Connecticut’s Robotic Surgery Attorneys TODAY

If you believe that you were injured during or as a result of a robotic surgical procedure, you should consult with a highly-regarded law firm with the resources and capabilities necessary to handle your potential case. The Connecticut injury litigation attorneys at Berkowitz and Hanna LLC are experienced in handling injury and wrongful death cases involving this robotic surgical technology.

To schedule a case evaluation with a qualified and committed attorney in Connecticut, call us today at (203) 487-5725 or send us a message via our online form.