According to many healthcare professionals — and some stock market observers — Intuitive Surgical is one of the most important manufacturers in the medical sphere today, and their da Vinci robotically-assisted surgical systems are the unquestioned future of the OR. One California woman sees the company and its wares very differently. And she’s prepared to take them deep into the legal process to prove her view.
“I want to go all the way,” Barbara Hershey recently told The Mercury News. “There’s just been too much with this company, and too many people hurt. I just want the world to know what they’ve done. I don’t want them to get away with it, to be swept under a rug.”
According to Hershey, when she underwent a hysterectomy seven years ago, her doctor performed the procedure using a da Vinci robot. She was persuaded by her physician’s assurance that using the da Vinci would reduce her recovery process from several weeks to a handful of days.
Instead, Hershey quickly found herself suffering from stabbing pain, she recounted to The Mercury News. She soldiered through a battery of tests for weeks, eventually agreeing to a new surgery to determine the cause. Doctors found she had a puncture in her bowel, a complication sustained during the original hysterectomy.
Hershey says she’s suffered through 10 corrective surgeries in the past seven years.
Herhsey and her lawyers maintain the complication she suffered is commonplace and preventable, citing the millions of dollars Intuitive Surgical sets aside to settle similar legal claims. While the manufacturer acknowledges confidential settlements have been reached, it insists the device is safe.
“Robotic-assisted surgery is an important surgical option that is safe and effective when used appropriately and with proper training,” insisted Intuitive Surgical, in a statement to the newspaper.
Herhsey will take her battle against the manufacturer into Santa Clara Superior Court, beginning in June of next year. The Mercury News notes it will be only the third such filing against Intuitive Surgical to make it to trial. A previous case was settled during jury deliberations and another is ongoing in Washington.
Although Hershey is focusing her ire on Intuitive Surgical, there’s an argument to be made that the da Vinci is merely another tool in the surgeon’s kit
“You get these people who aren’t very good, who aren’t being watched over,” Dwight Chen, MD, told The Mercury News. “The robot doesn’t make a bad surgeon a good surgeon. The robot actually enhances what you can do. But if you’re a bad surgeon, you’re still going to be a bad surgeon with a robot.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations