The Dangers of Robotic Surgery

Innovation in science and technology has helped us overcome obstacles and reach new heights as a human race, but sometimes we have to stop and analyze whether or not we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The da Vinci system, created by Intuitive Surgical Inc., is a robotic surgical system that has been on the market for more than decade, according to a New York Times article. They have performed more than one million procedures and increased in the United States more than 400% between 2007-2011.

The problem with all of this is the liability factor. 56.8% of surgeons reported experiencing irrecoverable operative malfunctions while using the system. Only 174 injuries and 71 deaths have been reported, but according to the article an immense amount of injury causing operations have gone unreported.

Dr. Martin A. Makary, an associate professor of surgery at John Hopkins, believes this is due to the fact that the media is underreporting accidents, making it easier for those involved to not have to take responsibility.

Intuitive apparently aggressively markets their equipment. Doctors and physicians have received pressure to use them, even though the quality of training provided to surgeons is not on par with their training for traditional surgery.

Women are especially at risk for a da Vinci system related injury. One third of the reported deaths have been because of gynecologic procedures, and 43% of injuries have been associated with hysterectomies.

Hospitals are required to report all of the devices involved in an injury or death to the FDA 30 days after the fact, but many have neglected to do so with the da Vinci system. The website of Crowe & Mulvey, LLP says that although the system has the ability to be beneficial for patients, in the wrong hands or under the wrong circumstances, robotic surgery can lead to unnecessary and avoidable injuries and complications.

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