As Product Liability and Medical Malpractice Claims Mount

A current Washington lawsuit against Intuitive Surgical echoes the growing debate across the country about the safety of the Da Vinci surgical robot and the forces that have affected doctors’ decisions to use the robot.

Marketing Goals at Odds with Healthcare

An article posted on CNBC’s website highlights the issue:

According to former salespeople, internal emails and even Wall Street analysts, Intuitive Surgical—maker of the da Vinci, the pioneering surgical robot—is a marketing machine with a company culture steeped in aggressive marketing techniques, including high-pressure sales efforts by Intuitive targeting hospitals and doctors.


Pressure on salespeople to meet sales quotas translates to pressure on medical professionals to perform more robot-assisted surgeries. The CNBC article provides examples of this trend within the Intuitive Surgical sales force:

One theme that emerges is an effort to prod surgeons to “convert” previously scheduled non-robotic surgeries to robotic surgeries to meet quarterly sales quotas.
In one email, Intuitive’s clinical sales director bemoaned how the “Mountain West team is forecasting about 285 procedures each week. We need to be at 345 procedures/week to close on our goal.”

With two days left in one quarter, another sales leader wrote: “Let’s bring it home! Be sure to scrub all schedules, identify cases on Thursday and Friday that can be moved up. … Turn over every stone possible. I know there are 2 out there.”


In the Washington state case, Fred Taylor of Kitsap County was gravely injured as a result of Da Vinci robot assisted prostate surgery. Dr. Scott Bildsten, working out of Harrison Memorial Hospital, was an experienced surgeon, but had only performed two prior supervised surgeries using the Da Vinci robot. The surgery on Mr. Taylor was Bidlsten’s first unsupervised Da Vinci surgery. Taylor first named Bildsten and Harrison Memorial Hospital as defendants in his lawsuit. When Bildsten blamed Intuitive for misleading him about the amount of training required to safely use the robot, the focus shifted to the practices of the manufacturers and sellers of the surgical robot. As nationwide claims mount against Intuitive Surgical, the Kistap County case is the first to go to trial.

See The Seattle Times:

Be an Informed Consumer

As a patient, you deserve the best healthcare available. In a field vast with choices of doctors, facilities, and procedures, you can help ensure you are receiving the best care through research and self-advocacy. If surgery is required, ask how your doctor plans to perform the surgery. Ask specifically about the technology to be used, risks associated with the technology, and about the doctor’s experience with the technology and his or her success rate. Follow up by talking to other medical professionals or conducting research. Then ask more questions.

Product Liability Claims Often Lead to Complex Litigation

Even when you have made the best decision within your power, there are factors beyond your control in a medical setting that may result in injury. Medical malpractice and product liability claims typically lead to complex litigation, requiring significant investigation, research and the engagement of a variety of experts. James Dixon & Jennifer Cannon-Unione are experienced complex litigation attorneys. If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of others or by the failure of a manufactured product, please do not hesitate to contact Dixon & Cannon, Ltd for a free consultation.

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