Attorneys for the estate of the late Sandra Sultzer claim that Intuitive Surgical Instruments failed to warn patients that its ‘da Vinci’ robot had a known defect that could cause it to “leak” electricity, potentially burning internal organs and causing other injuries.
The widower of a Florida woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Intuitive Surgical, the maker of a medical robot that plaintiff Harvey Sultzer claims burned and tore through his wife’s small intestine during cancer treatment.
In his complaint, Sultzer alleges that his wife—the late Sandra Sultzer—began complaining of additional symptoms after undergoing surgery for colon cancer in September of 2021. She developed abdominal pain and a fever, both caused or exacerbated by the tear to her intestine.
However, despite receiving further care, Sultzer passed away from surgery-related injuries in February of 2022.
Harvey Sultzer and his attorneys now claim that Sandra’s injuries are attributable to a medical robot manufactured by Intuitive Surgical—a medical robot that Intuitive Surgical knew, or should have known, suffered from critical defects.
“[The da Vinci robot’s] instruments consist of forceps, scissors, scalpels and other surgical tools,” the lawsuit states. “Some of these instruments use electrical energy to cut and cauterize living body tissue.”
Attorneys for the Sultzer estate say that Intuitive Surgical knew that its robot was not properly insulated, and that what insulation da Vinci had was “insufficient to reliably prevent electricity from leaking into the body and causing internal burns to patients.”
Surgeons performing a medical procedure; image courtesy of skeeze via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com
But Intuitive Surgical, the lawsuit alleges, neither disclosed the risk nor directed that patients be warned of potential complications.
People notes that “this isn’t the first time Intuitive Surgical’s device caused injury or death,” with the company having already acknowledged that it is named as a defendant in other personal injury and wrongful death claims.
“The Company is currently named as a defendant in a number of individual product liability lawsuits filed in various state and federal courts,” Intuitive Surgical wrote in a federal Security and Exchange Commission filing. “The plaintiffs generally allege that they or a family member underwent surgical procedures that utilized the da Vinci surgical system and sustained a variety of personal injuries and, in some cases, death as a result of such surgery.”
“Several of the filed cases have trial dates in the next 12 months,” the company wrote.
The Sultzer estate’s lawsuit suggests that, beyond failing to warn patients of the da Vinci robot’s risks, Intuitive Surgical also markets its robotic products to hospitals that have little to no experience performing robot-assisted surgery. It also claims that, after making a sale, Intuitive Surgical does not provide adequate training and support to surgeons.
Furthermore, the language of the complaint indicates that, in many cases, physicians themselves were never made aware of the da Vinci’s alleged defect and resulting risks.
“Had [Intuitive Surgical Instruments] safely designed its product so that stray electrical energy would not burn the insides of patients without the knowledge or control of the operating surgeons, the small intestine injury to Mrs. Sultzer would not have happened, and she would not have died,” the lawsuit alleges. “Had [Intuitive Surgical Instruments] adequately warned about the problems with its monopolar scissors, the injuries Mrs. Sultzer sustained would not have happened, and she would not have died.”
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