The jury in Washington state found that Intuitive should not be held liable for the death of a man who was injured during a botched robotic prostatectomy. The family of Fred Taylor alleged that Intuitive Surgical failed to provide adequate training to his surgeon, Dr. Scott Bildsten.
Dr. Bildsten testified that he only received one day of training and two supervised surgeries before Intuitive Surgical deemed him qualified to perform surgeries on his own. Intuitive Surgical argued that they warned Dr. Bildsten not to perform robotic prostatectomies on morbidly obese patients, and only choose patients with simple operations.
Scott Bildsten performed his first-ever unsupervised robotic operation on Mr. Taylor, an overweight patient, in 2008. During the procedure, he developed serious injuries, including kidney damage, heart failure, and brain damage. These complications ultimately led to his death in 2012.
According to plaintiffs’ attorneys:
“This was a very difficult case, and most of the cases people are going to have are going to be easier than this one. … The doctor was told not to operate on overweight patients, and he did it anyway, and that was a hard fact to get around.”
Lawyers who represented the plaintiffs have vowed to appeal the verdict and have stated that it will not affect the other lawsuits currently pending against Intuitive. The company is facing at least 27 additional lawsuits. All of the lawsuits allege that Intuitive aggressively marketed the Da Vinci Surgical Robot without providing surgeons with adequate training.
Many of the lawsuits involve patients who were injured by burns and electrocutions caused by malfunctioning scissors. The monopolar scissors (or “Hot Shears”) are used to cut, cauterize, and burn tissue during surgery. In May 2013, Intuitive warned that insulation defects scissors could cause patients to suffer life-threatening injuries.