da Vinci Lawsuit Testimony Focuses on Aggressive Marketing by Manufacturer

As of January 2013, 2,585 da Vinci Surgical Systems are being used in 2,025 hospitals worldwide, according to a report from Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the manufacturer of the robot.1  Last year 367,000 surgeries were performed using the robot, which compared to the 114,000 surgeries performed in 2008, provides a testament to Intuitive’s marketing success.2
Da Vinci Surgical Robot LawsuitWhile the minimal training provided by Intuitive is a continued topic of controversy, their marketing methods are also being questioned.  “Many U.S. hospitals promote robotic surgery in patient brochures, online and even on highway billboards.  Their aim is partly to attract business that helps pay for the costly robot.”  The cost of a da Vinci Surgical System is approximately $1.45 million.2

As previously reported, Fred Taylor of Silverdale, Washington, underwent surgery for a standard prostatectomy on September 9, 2008.  Unfortunately, due to multiple complications directly related to the inadequate training of the surgeon, Dr. Scott Bildsten, Mr. Taylor subsequently died.  Internal company emails were provided to The New York Times by Mr. Taylor’s estate, which reflect the aggressive marketing approach used by Intuitive.  In an email dated May 31, 2011, a Western regional sales manager for Intuitive noted that area surgeons had used robot equipment only five times, although the company’s goal was to see 36 robotic operations performed by the end of June.  He urged sales staff to persuade surgeons to switch upcoming cases to robotic ones.  ‘Don’t let proctoring or credentialing’ – shorthand for supervised surgery and hospital certification – ‘get in our way’ the email said.3

According to a report published by Citron Research on December 19, 2012, the da Vinci surgical robot “has not been sold to meet patient need, as most medical devices are, but rather it has been sold using fear to hospital management purchasing committees.  Aggressive salespeople have escalated a ‘medical arms race’ into high technology.”  Citron’s report also found that it has “a track record of excessive and unjustified marketing claims.”  Approximately 4,600 adverse event reports were highlighted in Citron’s report, all relating to injury and/or death connected to the da Vinci Surgical System.4

An article published by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in September 2012 stated that, “Marketing of robotic gynecology surgery is widespread.  Much of the content is not based on high-quality data, fails to present alternative procedures, and relies on stock text and images.”5

Intuitive’s marketing ploy includes statements that the robot can provide definitive treatment, significantly less pain, shorter hospital stay, faster return to normal daily activities, and the potential for a better outcome.6  Unfortunately, as the number of reported injuries and/or deaths continues to rise, these statements are becoming unreliable, leaving Intuitive grasping for alternative marketing strategies.

If you have been injured by robotic surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System, our experienced robotic surgery injury attorneys at Audet and Partners, LLP offer a free consultation so that we can evaluate your legal claim and advise you of your options.  We invite you to call us at (800) 965-1461 or email the confidential case inquiry form on the right side of this page.

SOURCES:

  1. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/palos/community/chi-ugc-article-dr-megan-dejong-discusses-womens-health-and-2013-04-29,0,5121710.story
  2. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/surgical-robot-scrutinized-fda-deaths-nightmares-article-1.1311447
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/26/health/salesmen-in-the-surgical-suite.html?ref=intuitivesurgicalinc&_r=0
  4. http://badrobotsurgery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Has-the-Halo-Been-Broken-on-Intuitive-Surgical.pdf
  5. http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0002-9378/PIIS0002937812006643.pdf
  6. http://www.davincisurgery.com/da-vinci-surgery/

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