Although Intuitive Surgical Inc.’s (NASDAQ:ISRG) outlook has been nothing but golden, with average growth of 45 percent over the past five years and a gleaming growth forecast of 25 percent, a recent lawsuit could cast doubt on its future. On April 4, a distraught father filed a product liability suit in New York against claiming the company’s da Vinci sugrical robot contributed to the death of his 24-year-old daughter in a Bronx hospital in 2010, according to a report in Outpatient Surgery Magazine.
The lawsuit, filed by Gilmore McCalla, alleges that the death of his daughter, Kimberly McCalla, was caused by the surgeon’s mistakes during her hysterectomy, as well as by flaws in the robot’s design, such as badly-insulated surgical arms and overly-strong electrical current that can connect with healthy tissue. The da Vinci allegedly burned one of the woman’s arteries and her intestines. She died two weeks after the surgery. The lawsuit also claims that Intuitive Surgical did not give hospital staff adequate training on the robot’s use. The da Vinci robot is operated remotely to burn away tissue for removal of diseased organs.
“The complaint says this doctor didn’t have the knowledge to properly control the machinery,” said New York attorney Paul Rheingold, who is representing McCall’s father. The lawsuite also claims that Intuitive has been giving doctors certification after an extremely short training period, he added.
Lawsuits alleging medical errors involving da Vinci have until recently only named the surgeon, according to Rheingold. “It may help the doctors to learn they were not really at fault, that it was the machine,” Rheingold said. The lawsuit was filed April 4 in federal court. The surgeon’s name is undisclosed. According to Rheingold, several similar liability lawsuits regarding da Vinci are now being filed against Intuitive in other parts of the country. Intuitive Surgical has dodged malpractice lawsuits involving da Vinci in the past because there was no way to show that the injury was the result of a mechanical issue. Intuitive Surgical, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., declined to comment.
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