More than 85% of prostate surgeries (prostatectomies) are performed with the Da Vinci Surgical Robot in the United States. Unfortunately, there is growing concern about the lack of a benefit with robot prostate surgery, additional costs, and potential risk of patient injuries from mechanical malfunctions and surgical errors.
UPDATE: In 1st Robot Surgery Lawsuit, Verdict for Defense
June 20, 2013 — The first Da Vinci Surgical Robot lawsuit to go before a jury has returned a verdict in favor of the defense. However, the individual circumstances of the case mean that the verdict may not affect at least 30 other lawsuits currently pending against Intuitive Surgical. Click here to read more.
June 18, 2013 — Case report of a 65 year-old man who suffered permanent nerve damage during a robotic prostatectomy. Click here to read more.
April 2013 — A jury has awarded a $7.5 million medical malpractice judgement for the family of Juan Fernandez, a Chicago man who died in 2007 during robot surgery after surgeons punctured his intestines.
First Robot Prostate Surgery Lawsuit Filed
The first robot prostate surgery lawsuit was filed in Port Orchard, Washington, on behalf of a man who died four years after a surgeon made a serious surgical error during what should have been a routine prostatectomy. Although the surgeon had successfully performed 100 non-robotic prostatectomies, the first time Dr. Scott Bildsten used the Da Vinci Surgical Robot unassisted, he lacerated the rectum of Fred Taylor and caused other complications that led to a stroke. Intuitive Surgical is now facing at least 26 lawsuits involving injuries caused by the Da Vinci Surgical Robot.
Our lawyers can help you fight for compensation, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses (past and future care)
- Permanent injuries or disability
- Lost income
- Wrongful death of your family member
- Punitive damages against Intuitive Surgical
What is the problem with Robot Prostate Surgery?
The popularity of the Da Vinci Surgical Robot for prostate surgery (also known as prostatectomy, or removal of the prostate gland) has grown dramatically. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Da Vinci in 2000, robot prostate surgery has become the most popular procedure. More than 85% of all prostatectomies are done with a robot.
Many experts are concerned that besides the “wow” factor, there is no scientific justification for the exploding popularity of the devices. The $1.7 million robots have been purchased by more than 1,400 hospitals, and robot prostate surgery is enthusiastically marketed as a safer, less painful surgery with a faster recovery.
Unfortunately, there is little evidence that robotic prostate surgery is any better than traditional, non-robotic prostatectomies using minimally-invasive laparoscopic techniques with 1-2 cm “keyhole” incisions. There is also concern about excess costs and injuries caused by mechanical malfunctions or surgeon errors.
One Day of Training for Robot Prostate Surgery
When the FDA approved the Da Vinci Surgical Robot for prostate surgery, they required Intuitive Surgical to provide three days of training as part of the FDA clearance. As the popularity of robot surgery increased, Intuitive Surgical reduced training to one or two days.
Now, there is growing concern about surgeon errors due to lack of training. In 2010, the New England Journal of Medicine published an essay by doctors who estimated that 150 procedures would be necessary to become adept at using the Da Vinci Surgical Robot.
The complex machines uses three or four robotic arms controlled with a computer system. The surgeon is completely removed from the patient and has no tactile feedback. Using a tiny video camera attached to a long arm on the robot, the surgeon sees inside the patient’s body while the other arms are controlled with joysticks and foot-pedals. This is very different from traditional surgery, which takes years of intensive training.
Robot Prostate Surgery Injuries
In January 2012, a study of robotic-assisted prostate surgery injuries was published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Researchers warned:
“Risks of problems with continence and sexual function are high … men should not expect fewer adverse effects following robotic prostatectomy.”
Robot prostate surgery injuries may include:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Lacerated blood-vessels
- Bowel perforation
- Organ damage
- Burns and electrocutions
- Surgical errors
- Additional surgery