Like in many other areas, the United States is unique when it comes to attitudes toward technological advances in the medical field. Most people in the U.S., both medical professionals and consumers, believe that American medicine leads the world. It is undeniable, though, that experts from other parts of the world see the American attitude as headstrong and at times ill-advised. Certainly the United States has many of the most respected research facilities and teaching hospitals in the world, but our obsession with technology is a dangerous one. The recent surge of da Vinci robot surgery lawsuits is representative of one of the problems with the American view toward medical advancement.
The past decade has seen the rise of robotic surgery within this country. Providing an alternate procedure for laparoscopic surgery, the da Vinci robot makes operating on patients easier for the surgeon by allowing them to work at a comfortable remote station rather than awkwardly handling long-handled tools themselves. Some surgeons say that with a large amount of practice, the device allows them to perform more detailed or complex procedures. But the overwhelming majority of medical professionals say the device may actually pose significant risks to patients, particularly when the surgeon using it has not been performing robot surgeries at a high volume for some time. Da Vinci robot surgery lawsuits allege that the device can cause serious and life threatening internal injuries to organs and bodily tissues.
Despite the growing criticism of the product, including major studies by respected medical research groups and news stories by prominent periodicals, the surgical robot continues to grow in popularity. These news articles and medical journals have published revealing information showing that claims regarding better patient outcomes made by Intuitive Surgical in marketing materials have never actually been proven. This is precisely where the U.S. medical system and that of other leading countries vary from one another. Only in America can a medical device reach such a height of popularity within ever being proven to offer benefits to patients. In a society where technology is often equated with improvement and advancement, patients seek out hospitals that offer da Vinci robot surgery – unaware that traditional laparoscopy may actually be a smarter and safer choice. Furthermore, the da Vinci robot adds significant cost to routine surgeries such as hysterectomy. Hospitals are footing the bill for this new device in order to attract more patients – and meanwhile Intuitive Surgical is reaping record profits for an unproven and perhaps unsafe product.
While Intuitive Surgical continues to market the robot in the same aggressive manner, making unproven claims about patient outcomes and failing to notify consumers of the risks associated with robotic surgery, the company has quickly and quietly settled the da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits that have surfaced thus far. Speculation says that the company must know something is seriously wrong with robot surgery, or company lawyers would be fighting these pricey lawsuits tooth and nail. In the long run, it’s up to the American consumer to make wise choices, continuing to grapple with the question of technology and advancement.