The lawsuit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court against her surgeon, Dr. Philippa Ribbink, several hospitals and clinics where she was treated, and the manufacturer of the robot, Intuitive Surgical, Inc.
The plaintiff, Heidi Carlson, is seeking $475,000 for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
She says she underwent surgery at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center on September 26, 2012. During that surgery, a piece of the Da Vinci Surgical Robot’s arm fell into her abdominal cavity, but her surgeon did not notice and sewed her up.
Over the next seven months, she suffered from “severe, incapacitating pain” and was unable to work. However, her surgeon did not order additional scans. In April 2013, she finally underwent a CT scan and X-ray, which showed a metal object in her abdomen. In June 2013, she had another surgery to remove the object, and it was discovered to be a piece of the robot.
The Da Vinci Surgical Robot is designed with four remote-controlled arms and a sophisticated camera. The surgeon sits at a console, looks through a view-finder at a 3D image, and controls the arms using joysticks and foot-pedals.
Although robotic surgery is promoted as more precise, there are many critics who point out a number of safety concerns. For example, a surgeon at a console might not notice if an instrument falls into a patient. Others fear that patient safety could be jeopardized while surgeons learn how to use the complex machines.