In an Oregon medical malpractice lawsuit, a jury awarded $100,000 in damages to a woman who experienced complications following da Vinci robotic surgery due to an allegedly unnecessary procedure where foreign objects were left in her body.
The trial involved a complaint filed by by Michelle Elsey against Dr. Daniel Laury, which claimed that the gynecologist removed a healthy ovary during robotic surgery in 2007. Elsey also claimed that the da Vinci robot malfunctioned and a laparoscopy sheath and extraneous coils were found in her body during a CT scan more than three years later.
Elsey underwent the surgery after experiencing pelvic pain, and the complaint alleged that a misdiagnosis resulted in the removal of her right ovary, fallopian tube and her appendix. The organs later were determined to be healthy and the surgery unnecessary.
According to a report by the Insurance Journal, Elsey sought nearly $1 million in damages against Dr. Laury and the jury awarded $10,500 for medical expenses and another $100,00 for pain and suffering.
The trial came amid increasing concerns nationwide about injuries and problems associated with robotic surgery procedures, which have become more popular in recent years. Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of the da Vinci robot, has faced criticism for aggressively marketing of robotic surgery and issues surrounding the extent of training provided for physicians.
The da Vinci Surgical System is a remote control robot featuring four arms that are controlled by a surgeon through the use of hand and foot controls while sitting at a console that provides a virtual reality representation of the patient’s internal organs. The surgical robot is commonly used for a number of different urologic, laparoscopic, gynecologic and non-cardiovascular thoracoscopic surgical procedures and thoracoscopically assisted cardiotomy procedures.
A study presented last month at the 42nd AGL Global Congress on Minimally Invasive Gynecology found that 21% of da Vinci robot surgery injuries involved operator error, with 14% of complications involving robot failure.
While Elsey’s lawsuit did not name Intuitive Surgical as a defendant, the manufacturer faces a number of da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits brought on behalf of former patients who allege that problems with the machine caused them to suffer burns, tears and other internal injuries.
Earlier this month, the FDA announced a da Vinci robot recall that impacted about 1,400 components, indicating that the robot’s arms could stall during surgery. The recall came after at least three complaints of stalling. In one case the problem led to an imprecise cut during robot surgery.