A jury in Kitsap County Superior court is deciding the outcome of a lawsuit, Estate of Fred. E. Taylor v. Intuitive Surgical Inc., filed by the widow of Fred Taylor who was seriously injured during robot-assisted prostate surgery performed using a da Vinci robotic system made by Intuitive. The jury heard five weeks of testimony before going into deliberations yesterday.
Taylor’s estate seeks $8.45M in damages from Intuitive Surgical Inc.
Taylor, who was 67 years old at the time of his surgery, suffered serious injuries during the robot-assisted surgery. His urologist, Dr. Scott Bildsten, was using the da Vinci robotic system unassisted for the first time since training when Taylor was injured. His injuries included a torn rectum, kidney and lung damages, memory loss, incontinence and a stroke. He lived for four years after the surgery but was unable to return to his normal life.
Previously, Bildsten had performed 100 prostatectomies using conventional surgery before Taylor’s botched surgery.
Taylor’s estate has already settled a medical malpractice case with the surgeon and hospital. The estate filed this lawsuit claiming that Intuitive was negligent in 10 different ways including misleading surgeons into thinking that surgery using a robot was easy and required but a day of training and providing inadequate training.
This is the first case of 26 lawsuits against Intuitive to go to trial and the outcome of the case is being closely scrutinized.
There are approximately 400,000 robot-assisted surgery performed every year and the FDA is correspondingly receiving adverse event reports as there are more robot-aided surgeries before. Since 2012, there have been 500 adverse event reports including the deaths of five patients and reports of several patients suffering serious injuries.
A robotic surgery machine is a costly investment for a hospital. With a price tag of almost $1.5M and maintenance service agreements of $100K annually, there is an incentive for hospitals and surgeons to use the devices to recoup costs.