Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the maker of surgical robots used in more than 300,000 operations last year, faces accusations that it put patients at risk by marketing the robots to doctors without providing adequate training.
In the last 15 months, lawsuits have been filed alleging injuries from robot surgery, Bloomberg News reports, and almost all of the suits cite Intuitive’s training procedure. A lawsuit filed in Kitsap County, Washington, includes company emails suggesting that Intuitive’s sales force lobbied hospitals to scale back doctor training. One email reportedly praised a salesman for persuading a hospital that five supervised operations were too many, Bloomberg News writes, and another email urged a sales team not to “let proctoring or credentialing get in the way” of meeting goals on the number of robot surgeries.
Intuitive’s da Vinci robots, which cost about $1.5 million each, are currently used in nearly 1,400 U.S. hospitals. No universally accepted training guidelines exist, Bloomberg News writes, in contrast to the standards for many other surgical procedures. The American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, now known as AAGL, is expected to offer its first robot training guidelines for hospitals this spring, said Michael Pitter, a surgeon who uses the machines at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
In a March 19 statement, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, expressed concern over the rising number of reports of injuries linked to robotic surgery. The board called for better physician training and better disclosure to patients of potential risks, Bloomberg News writes.