Jurors Told Intuitive Surgical Ran Like a Car Dealership

Intuitive-Surgical-Car-DealershipIn a case involving the safety of Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci robotic system, the jury was told that the company acted “just like a car dealership” in training doctors to use the equipment.

In addition, jurors heard that the plaintiff, Fred Taylor, had died because of the company’s practices, and that Intuitive should pay more than $8 million in damages to his estate. These remarks were part of the plaintiff’s attorney’s closing arguments in a Port Orchard, Washington state court, Bloomberg News reports.  

Intuitive “wanted to do all the training to keep control of surgeons, to keep control of hospitals and keep control of surgeries,” but after 2006, when it simplified the training program, the company was not providing adequate training to surgeons, the attorney for the Taylor estate said. Intuitive had committed to stricter training requirements in 2000 in its application for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to market the robot system, according to Bloomberg News.

The Taylor case is the first to go to trial over injuries allegedly caused by the da Vinci. Fred Taylor had robot-assisted surgery in September 2008 to remove his cancerous prostate. Although his urologist, Scott Bildsten, had performed 100 successful prostactectomies using traditional methods, this was Bildsten’s first unassisted procedure using the da Vinci, according to Bloomberg News. After numerous difficulties during the seven-hour surgery, Bildsten abandoned the robot for traditional methods, and then needed to turn to emergency care to repair a rectal laceration. Taylor lived for four more years but needed round-the-clock care during that time.

The jury was told that Intuitive was negligent in telling surgeons they were ready to perform robotic procedures unassisted after a one-day training session at company headquarters and two supervised robotic surgeries, Bloomberg News reports. Damon Daniels, a former Intuitive sales representative, testified that Intuitive recommended surgeons choose simple cases for their first four to six robotic procedures. But Taylor’s case wasn’t simple, in part because of his obesity. Daniels, who was present in the operating room, helped Bildsten adjust the surgical table so the robotic arms would fit over Taylor’s body. Daniels’ assistance allowed an inappropriate procedure to go forward, the plaintiff’s attorney told the jury, according to Bloomberg News.




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