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Robotic Surgery: More Complications, Less Benefits

Steven E. North, Esq.
Shari James, Paralegal

An October 7, 2014 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that robotic surgeries had a higher rate of complications then regular minimally invasive surgery.

The da Vinci Surgical System, a $2 million machine has been touted for many years as the surgical system to use for robot aided surgical procedures. It has more recently come under scrutiny, following concerns of the safety and cost effectiveness of its use. In an October 8, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, lead author of the study, Jason D. Wright, chief of gynecological oncology at Columbia University, stated that the cost of using the technology is significantly higher and the risks of complications and injuries to internal organs, is also increased, which begs the question of - is it really worth it?

The da Vinci system allows the "surgeon" to sit at a computer console and manipulate robotic arms that are equipped with surgical equipment. But what will happen if that robot makes even a slight mistake? The results could be devastating. This makes it critical for physicians, as the providers of care, to appreciate and impart all the risks and potential benefits of using the robotic surgery procedure over the traditional surgery, so that a patient can make an informed decision on the choice of how to proceed.

In deciding how to perform a surgical procedure, physicians should be mindful that an "easier" method may not always be the most effective method of ensuring that the patient is operated on properly. Likewise, patients should be wary of and question how a procedure will be performed fully, understanding that certain procedures have inherent risks.

According to Steven E. North, a specialist in medical malpractice law practicing in New York City, physicians using robotic surgery as means to limit liability should be mindful of the potential for medical malpractice claims if they allow an "easier" method to take the place of a safer and better way to perform a procedure and causes injury to a patient.