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What is the da Vinci Surgical Robot?

Technological advances have reached the medical world, with the development of the “da Vinci Surgical System.” This device is an advanced platform made to help and enhance any surgeon’s capacities in performing major operations. This is a new system that allows minimal invasive option for many major surgeries. It is marketed by a California-based company called Intuitive Surgical Inc., made available to the public for since the last decade and has  been widely hailed as a breakthrough in non-invasive surgeries.

The da Vinci surgical system works by allowing surgeons to operate on their patients using small incisions made to insert the minimized wristed instruments, including hi-def 3D cameras which allows the surgeons to view a magnified image of the site where the surgery will be performed. The da Vinci surgical system is a device that performs solely based on the instructions and movements of the surgeon.

Nevertheless, despite the popularity of the da Vinci surgical system, there have been rising reports of injuries caused by using this surgical robot. Complications such as punctured organs, surgical burns, peritonitis (inflammations of the abdomen’s inner wall), and many others have been widely reported by victims. There have also been reports of death due to severe complications caused after surgery using the da Vinci surgical robot.

Most of these injuries are reportedly caused by the lack of training of the surgeons who use them. Because of the low training standards that are put on surgeons who operate the da Vinci surgical robots, many patients have been put in potentially high risks of serious and life-threatening complications. Based on reports from the Bloomberg News review, there have already been 70 deaths related to the use of da Vinci surgical robot, with 5,000 reported injuries. Despite these huge numbers, people are still unaware of the risks of the da Vinci surgical robot. Even with the many lawsuits that have been filed against the manufacturers and users of the da Vinci surgical robot, the demand to use the system is still on the rise, thanks to glossy marketing and people’s unawareness of the risks and dangers that come with using the system.

“Loss of Chance” Doctrine Becoming National Trend in Malpractice Law

Minnesota Supreme Court recently deviated from its traditional rulings on malpractice claims to create a “loss of chance” doctrine, in which a patient is entitled to compensation if the negligence of a doctor can be proved to have decreased the patient’s chances of survival. Kayla and Joseph Dickhoff, the parents of a young girl with a rare form of muscle cancer, brought the case that inspired this decision. The Dickhoffs felt that Dr. Rachel Tolefsrud and her clinic had failed to diagnose their daughter’s suspicious lump, leading to her currently more difficult, painful, and expensive battle with the cancer.

The Court ruled that the defendants had been negligent and should be held liable for the girl’s lessened chances of recovery. Even though this case brought Minnesota to join the other 40 states with “loss of chance” doctrines, the ruling was split 3-2. The dissenting side argued that because a “loss of chance” did not deal with true causation of harm from specific actions, it should not be supported as a liability. Dissenting Judge Christopher Dietzen pointed out that even though the Dickhoffs’ child had worsened and was currently struggling to beat her cancer, who could say with total confidence that it was a result of negligence or just the natural progression of the disease?

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts was the first to rule for “loss of chance” in 2008. They saw the doctrine not as another pitfall for doctors, but as a reminder to provide quality medical services and heightened attention in order to avoid a medical mistake such as misdiagnosis. The Supreme Judicial Court had hoped the “loss of chance” doctrine would lend itself to overall reform in medicine.