Jury Deliberations Begin in First Da Vinci Robot Injury Lawsuit

A Washington state jury is now considering whether to award damages against Intuitive Surgical in the first lawsuit in the country to reach a jury involving complications following da Vinci robotic surgery.  

Following more than four weeks of trial, the Washington Superior Court jury in Port Orchard began its deliberations yesterday in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Fred Taylor, who died following a botched procedure involving the da Vinci robot.

The da Vinci Surgical System is a complex surgery robot that 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. While the system is promoted as a less invasive procedure, leading to shorter recovery times, the lawsuit alleged that the da Vinci robot has a high “learning curve” that is required to obtain basic competency in robotic surgery.

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Taylor’s family and the urologist who performed the surgery indicated at trial that Intuitive Surgical, the robot’s makers, forced da Vinci robots that could cost upwards of $2 million on hospitals, using aggressive and deceptive marketing and failed to provide surgeons with proper training.

Intuitive Surgical attempted to convince the jury that the Taylor had health problems that made the use of the robot dangerous, and that the urologist, Dr. Scott Bildsten, bungled the operation and caused his death. However, Bildsten testified that Intuitive only provided him with one day of training and supervised him through two actual surgeries before declaring him proficient to perform the da Vinci surgery alone on Taylor.

The family has already reached a settlement with Bildsten over Taylor’s death. The details of that settlement are confidential.

Trial of the da Vinci wrongful death lawsuit began last month. Following the 2008 robotic surgery procedure, Taylor suffered kidney damage, lung damage, incontinence, sepsis, a stroke, and heart attacks. The manufacturer has attempted to argue that there is no proof linking Taylor’s health problems to the use of the da Vinci robot and has pointed out that he was obese and in poor health before the surgery.

The case is the first of dozens of da Vinci robot injury lawsuits to make it to trial in the United States. Complaints filed in state and federal courts throughout the United States raise similar allegations that Intuitive Surgical failed to provide adequate training for surgeons, with many also alleging that the robot was defectively designed and prone to allow the electrical current used to cut and cauterize tissue to arc outside of the surgical field.

Earlier this month, Intuitive Surgical warned about the risk of da Vinci robot burns and other injuries that may be caused by problems with the cauterizing scissors, known as Hot Shears. According to an urgent letter sent to hospitals and doctors, the manufacturer indicated that the da Vinci scissors could have micro-cracks that could cause patients to suffer electrical burns to internal organs.

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