March 20, 2012

Illinois Medical Malpractice Suit Settled by University After Robotic Surgery Death

by Levin & Perconti

Medical technology offers seemingly endless possibilities for improving patient care and saving lives. However, as with anything connected to medical treatment, it is vital that all improved medical tech tools first do no harm. Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm believes that it is unacceptable for patients to be harmed by medical errors in all situations—including where high-tech new tools are being used.

For example, the Chicago Tribune reported last week on the end of an Illinois medical malpractice case involving allegations of crucial errors caused by robotic equipment used during a surgery. The case had been filed several years ago by the family of a man killed during an operation to remove his spleen. The defendant facility in the case was a Chicago based clinic run by the University of Illinois.

According to reports, the man underwent surgery in February of 2007. During the robotic surgery the family claims that the patient suffered an injury. Documents filed in the suit allege that the caregivers at the facility did not act appropriately to identify that secondary injury and provide treatment which would have saved the man’s life. Court testimony in the case from earlier this year confirmed the operation was the first that the particular surgeon in charge had ever performed used the robotic equipment. This suggests that the surgeon may not have been prepared to utilize the high-tech tools in a safe way to ensure that the patient was not exposed to unnecessary risk of harm. Last week the University of Illinois trustees voted to approve an offered settlement in the case. Per the terms of the agreement, the University will pay the man’s family $6 million as a result of the Chicago medical malpractice. The University of Illinois Medical Center is owned by the public institution, and so all proposed major legal resolutions required approval from the Board.

Each Illinois medical malpractice attorney at our firm appreciates that robotic surgeries must be properly managed at all times to avoid unnecessary patient injury. These surgeries involve use of equipment that doctors manipulate via use of computers. Many surgeons are unfamiliar with these tools, particularly those who have not been adequately trained and who may have little experience in these operations.

Robotic surgeries are still somewhat unique, but are most often used for things like prostrate removal, kidney repair, and mitral valve replacement. When errors are made, long-term problems can arise—occasionally including damage to other organs. Sometimes the harm is compounded when that damage is not immediately identified. Far too often it is not until after the surgery that the damage comes to light, often too late to save the patient’s life.

All surgery involves some risk. However, harm caused during robotic surgery as a result of inexperienced or ill-trained surgeons is never an acceptable or excused risk. Patients have the right to expect that their care providers will act reasonably at all times. If harm is caused, those patients have the legal right to expect the harm to be quickly identified and treated. A breach in any of these regards is malpractice.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medical Malpractice Deaths Could Have Been Avoided if Doctors Washed Their Hands

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