Medical Malpractice

A recurring theme in many da Vinci robot lawsuits naming Intuitive Surgical Inc. as a defendant is that of inadequate training of surgeons in the use of the company’s robotic surgical system. Surgical injuries can occur with robot-assisted surgery in a number of ways, most commonly when blood vessels are nicked or organ linings are punctured by accident. It is also possible for a patient to be harmed when the electric current jumps from the instruments to the patient, causing burns that can lead to serious health issues or even death.

The surgeon’s training comes into play in this last instance with the simple act of cleaning an instrument that came with the da Vinci system in the midst of a procedure. Properly trained surgeons would know not to scrape instruments together to clean them as this causes the protective coating to be scraped off as well. This increases the risk of “arcing,” which is when an electrical current appears to jump from one surface to another.

Plaintiffs in the cases against Intuitive claim that the company knew of this particular risk, yet failed to inform surgeons about it.  Moreover, in order to increase the number of surgeons who are credentialed for its use and thus increase demand for the product, da Vinci system salespeople aggressively push hospitals relax credential requirements for surgeons being trained to use it. Since robot-assisted surgery is physically easier on the surgeon and comes at a premium, the tendency is for surgeons who have credentials to recommend the da Vinci system to their patients needing gynecologic, cardiothoracic, urologic and general surgery.

In most cases where burning occurred, surgeons are seldom listed as a defendant in personal injury claims because they are not considered to be at fault. The manufacturer is responsible for providing users of the new technology with the skills and knowledge to use the tool safely and effectively.

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Is Robotic Surgery Safe?

Posted By on Jul 19, 2013

It is the scene out of the most popular science fiction movies – a robot performing surgery. In theory it makes perfect sense; robotic surgery addresses certain human weaknesses such as the surgeon’s hands starting to shake after hours on a delicate and stressful operation. But is robotic surgery safe? And is it worth the extra cost and training necessary for its successful use?

Currently, hundreds of thousands of surgeries are performed using robotic tools, and on the whole it is considered safe. However, as the frequency of robotic surgeries rises, so does the chances of complications. Since 2007 when the technique was first introduced to perform hysterectomies, there have been over 200 reported serious injuries of which 89 had resulted in death due to complications during and following robotic surgery.

It is speculated that the use of monopolar energy, which can cause damage from sparks produced, may be the cause of the burns to the bowels, ureter, intestines and other sites which represent the majority of injuries reported. The injuries may not present at once, sometimes taking days and requiring additional procedures to pinpoint and repair. Top robotic surgery tool manufacturer Intuitive Surgical maintain that with proper use, the da Vinci surgical robot is perfectly safe.

According to the website of Massachusetts law firm Crowe & Mulvey, LLP, the potential for injury may lie primarily on the amount of training and experience of doctors and medical staff has in the proper use of the technology. When a patient suffers injury due to the improper use of robotic surgical techniques, the doctor and hospital may be found to have breached their duty of care and be civilly liable for those injuries. If you or someone close to you came back from a routine procedure using robotic surgery with serious injuries, consult with a robotic surgery lawyer at once to explain to you your options.

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Minimizing Medication Errors

Posted By on Jul 13, 2013

Medication errors may seem relatively harmless compared to surgical errors or misdiagnosis, but it has lead to serious injury for more than a million Americans every year. According to the website of  Crowe & Mulvey, LLP, it can even result in death. Medication errors include the wrong drug being dispensed, the wrong dosage, and conflicting drugs. These errors all sound preventable (because they are), and the key to minimizing medication errors is communication.

Many of the errors made in drug dispensing is due to lack of information. When a patient is first admitted for examination, an extensive medical history is taken because there are drugs that may seem to be the right ones for the condition but have adverse effects under specific circumstances. For example, for a patient complaining of muscle pain, one of the drugs that may be taken for relief is over-the-counter acetaminophen. But if that patient is already taking acetaminophen as part of a prescription drug, then the dosage may exceed safe levels and affect the liver adversely.

A more acute effect is when a patient is given medication that he or she is allergic to, but which either the patient failed to mention or did not know, or the nurse or doctor failed to check in the patient history. A good example is penicillin, to which 10% of the world’s population has an allergic reaction to. One of the protocols in hospitals is to take a skin test to determine if the patient has an allergy to particular medications that may be prescribed.

Health professionals have a duty of care to their patients, and must make every effort to prevent harm. Patients, on the other hand, must provide complete medical information inasmuch as they are aware of it. If there is adequate communication between healthcare professionals and between patients and healthcare providers, medication errors may be minimized.

If you have suffered adverse effects from medication errors caused by negligence or carelessness of a healthcare provider, then you may have recourse for compensation through the civil court. Confer with a medical malpractice lawyer in the area to find out your options.

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