Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over da Vinci Robotic Surgery

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By: Irvin Jackson | Published: September 6th, 2012

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the makers of the da Vinci Surgical System, alleging that problems with the robotic surgery device caused the surgeon to accidentally rip through a vital artery, causing severe bleeding that eventually resulted in death. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by James E. Chronister, the husband of Lucette Chronister, who died on March 13, 2010, after suffering injuries during a robotic hysterectomy.

Originally filed in Orange County Circuit Court in Florida, the case was removed to the federal court system early last month. The only named defendant in the complaint is Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the manufacturer of the da Vinci robot.

According to the da Vinci robotic surgery wrongful death lawsuit, Chronister went to Orlando Regional Medical Center for a hysterectomy on February 24, 2010, which involved the da Vinci surgical robot. The surgeon, Dr. Alan Gordon, was initially trained by Intuitive to use their robot during surgeries of this kind, according to the complaint.

While performing a node dissection and trying to free the pedicle, Dr. Gordon also cut the internal iliac artery and vein. This led to bleeding, which Dr. Gordon tried to stop with forceps and then a Hemoclip applier, all using the da Vinci robot arms. The clip, instead of clamping the bleeding area, tore through, resulting in hemorrhaging of Chronister’s pelvis vessels.

Dr. Gordon abandoned attempts to use the da Vinci robotic system and instead performed a manual hysterectomy, but Chronister was left with severe injuries. She never recovered and died of her injuries a couple weeks later, according to the lawsuit.

The da Vinci Surgical System is a complex, remote-controlled robot that has been heavily marketed and increasingly used in recent years for a number of surgical procedures to provide a less invasive surgery, which reduces recovery time.  The robot is controlled by a surgeon looking at a virtual reality representation of the patient’s internal organs and manipulating its four metal arms with hand and foot controls.

The Chronister complaint is one of a growing number of da Vinci surgery lawsuits filed by individuals throughout the United States who have suffered complications following a robotic hysterectomy or other procedure involving the robot.

The lawsuits involve similar claims concerning design defects associated with the machine, which allegedly may cause individuals to suffer damage to surrounding organs, vessels or tissue during surgery.

The latest claim accuses Intuitive Surgical of strict liability and negligence and seeks compensatory damages for medical and funeral expenses, mental pain and suffering and loss of consort and comfort.

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