The da Vinci surgical system is a remote-controlled robot used by surgeons to perform minimally invasive procedures. According to its manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical, the robot “combines superior 3D visualization along with greatly enhanced dexterity, precision and control in an intuitive, ergonomic interface with breakthrough surgical capabilities.” While this may be true in the hands of a skilled surgeon, this machine can produce catastrophic results when operated by inexperienced surgeons.


On May 25, 2010, Swartz & Swartz filed the first known malpractice case in New Hampshire involving a botched robotics surgical procedure. The lawsuit is on behalf of Sherry Long, a woman from Rochester, NH. She went into Wentworth-Douglass hospital for a hysterectomy in March and was told by her surgeon that they would use robotics to perform the surgery as it was less invasive. During the procedure, the surgeon, who was in training, cut both of her ureters, a surgical error that should not occur in the hands of a skilled surgeon. Unfortunately with this machine, the slightest error in manipulation and/or visualization can result in catastrophic injuries to the patient.
Swartz & Swartz alleged that the surgeon who was operating the robot was still undergoing training on the machine when she cut Ms. Long’s uterers. Incredibly the hospital allowed this untrained professional to use a robot to perform surgery on Ms. Long without ever informing her that the surgeon was in training. This type of situation should never occur and this is not the first time that this has occurred. Swartz & Swartz has received numerous phone calls from people with similar cases. The suit hopes to shed light on surgical mishaps due to operator errors and assure that no other surgeries are performed with robotic machines unless the surgeons are highly trained and certified in the proper operation of these machines
Next time a doctor asks you if you have any questions, ASK QUESTIONS! You have a right called informed consent—it is your right to know everything about the procedure that you will be undergoing, including all the risks associated with the surgery, how the surgery will be performed, who will be performing the surgery, and their qualifications and experience. Stay informed. Many hospitals have patient advocates that can assist you with making a decision. You can also contact your state department of health for further information. Also, the internet has a wealth of information about potential complications of surgical procedures as well as information about your doctor. Unfortunately, not all hospitals report these types of errors and instead classify them as acceptable complications of surgery. So, next time, be prepared, ask first, and become a well-informed patient.
By David P. Angueira of Swartz & Swartz P.C.Permalink

About the Author: James Swartz
Mr. Swartz, our Managing and Principal Attorney at Swartz & Swartz P.C., is a nationally recognized and respected trial attorney as well as consumer advocate. His practice focuses on cases involving negligence, torts, products liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and other claims involving catastrophic injuries.

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