Complications with The da Vinci Device

The da Vinci robotic surgical system represents a new frontier in medical treatment and is rapidly growing in popularity around the country. This device is huge and extremely sophisticated, capable of performing surgical movements that are impossible for humans to engage in. At first, the technology showed a great deal of progress and doctors believed it might usher in a new paradigm of medical treatment. In recent years, though, the device has shown a troubling range of complications, some of them resulting in wrongful death.


The FDA approved this device, manufactured by Intuitive Surgical, for use in 2000. At the time, it was intended for use in several minimally invasive procedures, including gynecological, urological and laparoscopic surgeries. Among the most common procedures are hysterectomies and prostate removal surgeries, though it is increasingly incorporated into gall bladder removal, cancer removal surgeries and gastric bypasses.

During surgery, a doctor controls the robot’s movements, which are much more precise than any human. The robot’s arms are capable of directing electrical currents, which can burn away diseased tissue.

Before a doctor can use the device, they must receive training from Intuitive. This typically consists of a two-day crash course, though many experts and even the doctors who have used the device have claimed that this is nowhere near enough training to gain proficiency with the technology.


This device has caused a number of serious injuries to patients, some of which later resulted in death. In most cases, these injuries consist of severe burns to internal organs or arteries, caused by uncontrolled electrical bursts released by the device’s arms. Some victims have also experienced uncontrolled hemorrhaging due to severed arteries or blood vessels. At least one suit claims that these injuries are caused by a major design defect in the technology, specifically the uninsulated arms that deliver electricity to the body.

Most lawsuits, though, are filed against doctors for user error. The two days reserved for training are not enough to ready doctors for the device. During one suit, a surgeon testified on behalf of the victim, stating that proficiency with the device required hundreds of surgeries. A doctor is unlikely to receive this experience before performing a critical surgery, placing the patient in extreme danger.

This lack of training was the cause behind a February 2012 lawsuit that ended in a $7.5 million judgment for the victim’s family. During a spleen removal surgery, the da Vinci system punctured the victim’s lower intestine unintentionally. It took two weeks for doctors to notice the injury, and by then, it was too late to help the victim. He passed away as a result of his injuries. During the suit, the operating surgeon admitted that it was the first time he had used the technology on a live person.

Mistakes like these are unacceptable. Until Intuitive and medical practitioners start taking training and safety seriously, more people will be gravely injured.