The use of robots in surgery has been heralded as a breakthrough that allows for more precise and less invasive surgical work, allowing patients to heal faster and reducing the risk of infection. However, when robots have hidden defects in their design or manufacture, serious injuries can result even when the medical team performs the surgery with care and attention.
A case from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently explored the question of what happens when a defectively-manufactured surgical robot causes serious injuries to a patient. In Gabriel Fernando Nassar Cure v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc., several heart surgery patients argued that they had been injured when a da Vinci surgical robot left metal shavings behind during surgery.
The district court that heard that case at trial dismissed the patients’ claims. At trial, the court compared the surgical robot case to Boyd v. Orkin Exterminating Co., in which an injured plaintiff had failed to prove that the levels of heptachlor epoxide in his brain were caused by pesticide exposure, instead of being naturally occurring. The district court found that a similar problem existed in Nassar Cure v. Intuitive Surgical: the patients had not proven that the metal shavings were deposited by the surgical robot.
On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the comparison was not accurate, since metal shavings, unlike heptachlor epoxide, are not normally found in the human body. The Eleventh Circuit, however, upheld the district court’s decision in favor of Intuitive, noting that even though the plaintiffs had demonstrated that the metal shavings were present, they had not proven that the robot was responsible for their presence.
While surgical robots have revolutionized many types of medical procedures, improper use of these robots or defects in their manufacture or design can cause serious injuries. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help. Contact Berger & Lagnese, LLC today at 412-471-4300 or via our online contact form to learn more.
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