"The future of surgery is not about blood and guts; the future of surgery is about bits and bytes.”
/Dr. Richard Satava/

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The "evil" robot surgery legal case


Since da Vinci surgery has become commodity, naturally, we have seen the rise of errors and malpractice. However, surgery is not a risk-free business, and since the nature of the robot (the master-slave teleoperation) does not allow autonomy in the control, so far, legal cases ruled in favor of Intuitive. Recently, we have seen a new wave in robotic-surgery legal cases, along with the rise of law offices specialized on this topic. (Apparently some not even knowing how a da Vinci looks like...)
 To be a little more objective, you can read a fair narrative here. Also, anyone can check ALL medical device related issues on FDA's MAUDE site. E.g., in January this year, there have been 18 cases of any kind reported with the da Vinci, and 280 in 2012, total, therefore the "thousands of victims" is a clear exaggeration. These issues reported are typically not even related to any malfunction of the robot. Hard not to see all this as the lawyers intention to tap into Intuitive's huge profit.  
Nevertheless, Intuitive is facing some challenges due to these news, investor speculations, and also, the rise of competitors.

Besides, the number of prostate surgeries have been declining, strengthening the position of hysterectomy as #1 (see figure below). "Q3 2012 US da Vinci Prostatectomy procedures were approximately 20% lower than Q3 2011. Year to date 2012 prostatectomy procedures were 14% below YTD 2011. The US prostatectomy decline appears to be driven by a combination of the US Preventive Service Task force recommendation against PSA testing and a change in treatment recommendations for low risk prostate cancer away from definitive treatment."(Intuitive Inc.) 
Image credit: Conflict Health blog

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