The father of a 24-year-old patient recently filed a product liability lawsuit against Intuitive Surgical, Inc. alleging that the company's da Vinci surgical robot led to his daughter's death. The patient died two weeks after her hysterectomy surgery and her father believes that the robot's errors contributed to his daughter's death.
Defective medical device claims involving the da Vinci robot are relatively new. Previously, injured patients have only pursued medical malpractice claims against the doctor operating the robot, alleging negligent operation of the machine.
"It may help the doctors to learn they were not really at fault, that it was the machine," said the attorney representing the father.
The lawsuit alleges that there were product design flaws with the robot which resulted in the patient sustaining burns to her artery and intestines. Poor insulation of the surgical arms and an overpowered electrical current may have caused the burns.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Intuitive failed to provide sufficient training to allow the physician to properly perform the procedure.
"We allege Intuitive has been certifying doctors after a very small training period," the attorney for the father said.
This is not the only new product liability lawsuit to arise out of patient injuries from the da Vinci robot. It is likely that the device maker will blame doctor negligence in order to avoid liability and it is unclear whether the plaintiffs' attorneys can sufficiently demonstrate the existence of a mechanical or design error with the da Vinci robot.
Source: Out Patient Surgery Magazine, "Robot Maker Sued Over Hysterectomy Patient's Death," April 10, 2012