More and more patients in Arkansas are having their surgeries performed not by the hands of an experienced surgeon, but by a robot. While there is always an experienced surgeon operating the robot, there has long been a debate about the safety of robotic surgeries. New reporting by a leading manufacturer of surgical robots raises questions about how often medical mistakes occur due to surgical robots.
Intuitive Surgical Inc. makes robots that are used in hysterectomies. The company saw an increased number of reports to U.S. regulators of surgical errors by its machines causing injuries to patients, including an increase in injuries that were deemed serious.
Intuitive explained that the rise in surgical errors is due to the increased use of robots in general. The company also said that the rise was because the company changed the way it reported errors.
When a person is injured by the error of a surgeon, typically the injured patient can seek compensation for their injuries through a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, the rising use of robots in surgeries raises issues about liability when a patient is injured by a robot. If the robot functioned properly and the injury occurred because of negligent actions of the surgeon, a medical malpractice suit may still be an option. But when a patient is injured because the robot itself is unsafe or malfunctioned, it may be difficult to bring a medical malpractice case.
Instead, the injured patient may have to seek compensation from the manufacturer of the robot through a defective medical device lawsuit. These types of lawsuits allege that the medical device itself - in this case the robot - was defective and this was the cause of the injury.
While a defective medical device lawsuit may seem straightforward, they are in fact quite complex. Medical devices are approved by the federal government, and therefore alleging that they are defective can be difficult. Despite this difficulty, an injured patient may be able to seek compensation for their injuries, and move forward from substandard surgical care.
Source: Fox Business, "Intuitive Surgical Ties Rise in Error Reports to Reporting Changes," March 14, 2013