July 22, 2013 — Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the manufacturer of the Da Vinci Surgical System, is facing at least 26 robot surgery lawsuits. The FDA launched an investigation in February after receiving thousands of adverse event reports, including more than 70 deaths since 2009.
According to report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in April, Intuitive Surgical is named as a defendant in approximately 26 individual robot surgery lawsuits. Plaintiffs allege that they underwent surgical procedures and suffered injuries and/or death. The lawsuits raise a variety of allegations, including defects in the Da Vinci Surgical System, failure to adequately train surgeons, and failure to disclose the risks of the robot. Many of the plaintiffs are seeking compensation and punitive damages.
One lawsuit was filed in 2009 on behalf of Fred Taylor, a man who died four years after a robotic surgery as a result of injuries that occurred during surgery. That lawsuit began in April 2013 and concluded in June in favor of the defense. The jury in Washington state found that Intuitive was not liable for Mr. Taylor’s death because they warned his doctor not to perform on morbidly obese patients.
However, in 2012, a malpractice lawsuit ended with a $7.5 million verdict awarded to the family of Juan Fernandez, a man who died in 2007 after a botched robotic spleen surgery. His lawyers allege that the surgery would have been straightforward with traditional methods, but doctors with little experience chose to use the Da Vinci. The doctors accidentally punctured his intestines, causing a fatal infection.
A growing number of people who suffered robotic surgery complications have taken legal action. Some of the most serious complications include:
- organ damage
- blood vessel perforation
- bowel or ureter damage
- burns and electrocutions
- vaginal cuff dehiscence (disembowelment through re-opened incisions after a hysterectomy)