March 20, 2013

Injuries Caused By Robotic Surgeries

by Levin & Perconti

CNBC published an interesting story about the rising use of robotics in surgical procedures. A high-profile device known as “da Vinci” was profiled. The product was released to much fanfare, with the designing company explaining that it minimized risk and improved outcomes for patients. The use of the product has steadily risen in recent years. The story notes that there are now over 2,500 such robots in use worldwide, completing more than 450,000 surgeries last year alone. That amounts to a 25% increase from the previous year.

Obviously anything that makes medical care better for patients is a good thing. But it is critical to ensure that these supposed benefits do not come with unacceptable risks. Many have begun asking questions about the safety of these robotic surgical machines.

In fact, in recent years there has been a rise in civil lawsuits by those harmed in surgeries where these tools were used. At least ten such suits were filed in the last two years, and observers say that many more cases have also sprung up and are being handled via mediation.

Perhaps the biggest issue is not the malfunctioning of the machines but the experience and skill of the doctors using the tools. Many argue that some doctors are not required to prove their ability enough before being able to use the device without supervision on real patients.

For example, recently the president of the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians noted that, "Robotic surgery is not the only or the best minimally invasive approach for hysterectomy. Nor is it the most cost-efficient. It is important to separate the marketing hype from the reality when considering the best surgical approach for hysterectomies."

Burns are one of the more common injuries that result from these surgeries. Attorneys working on legal cases with these issues have pointed out that the harm is often not discovered until days later. And then it is often not reported to the FDA. All of this means that that preventable harm caused by the robotic tools is likely more serious than most suspect.

The Medical Malpractice Law
Obviously changes in technology, protocols, and procedures must be taken into account by legal rules which apply to medical malpractice cases. That is why most legal principles are based on general guidelines that apply to all situations and can be adapted with the changes in the medical world.

Essentially, medical malpractice cases are rooted in the principal of negligence. A medical professional may be liable for harm caused by an adverse event so long as a breach in care caused the patient’s injury. The “breach” occurs whenever a medical professional acts in a way contrary to another reasonably prudent medical professional in the same situation. Determining “reasonableness” require examining the conduct of other professionals and getting their opinion on the matter. This basic process applies in all situations, even on the use and functioning of medical equipment like robotics.

For more information on how medical malpractice rules might apply in your case, feel free to contact our malpractice lawyers in Chicago.

See Other Blog Posts:

The Dangers of “Cookbook” Medicine

The Law & The Reinstein Fraud Case