The Pressure to Sell Could be Behind da Vinci Surgical Errors

Any surgical procedure carries some risk, even something as routine as an appendectomy. This is a given and acceptable provided that negligence or recklessness on the part of the hospital staff did not cause a patient’s injuries. However, when surgical errors occur that lead to injury or death because the surgeon did not know how to use the tools provided, that would be considered an actionable case.

In the cases against Intuitive Surgical Inc., manufacturer of the famed robotic surgery system da Vinci, one of the main problems with its use is the fact that many surgeons who use it did not have enough training to do so effectively and efficiently. As a result of this lack of training, surgical errors that would have a significant impact on a patient’s health and life occur.

It could be argued that hospitals are required to verify the credentials of a surgeon to use new technology such as da Vinci in surgery prior to an operation. However, since the robotic system is something new to the playing field, hospitals tend to follow the lead of the manufacturer in what would constitute a sufficient number of supervised operations before the surgeon is allowed to go solo. And since Intuitive would like to see more surgeons switching over to da Vinci, which would help drive sales in the future, the faster the surgeon is given credentials for its use, the better.  As a result, instead of being supervised by a more experienced surgeon for 5 operations, some new users get credentials after only three.

There are some indications that this short-cut was being urged on hospitals by Intuitive sales representatives, although the company denies any involvement in hospital credentialing policy. In light of the number of botched surgeries associated with the use of da Vinci, it is important to establish just how far Intuitive is responsible for quite serious surgical errors by otherwise well-trained surgeons with wide experience in the operations in question.

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