In a technology-driven world, many people assume that any new technology
must represent progress, improved efficiency and better results. Though
advances in technology have remade much of our world, it’s always
a good idea to examine and judge each new product on its merits, rather
than assuming that because it’s new, it must represent progress.
One example of a technological “advance” that was widely heralded
upon arrival is robotic surgery. Across Ohio, doctors, hospitals and news
media celebrated its precision, cost-effectiveness and safety. In the
wake of reports of injuries to patients and medical malpractice claims
involving robotic surgeries, some are wondering if the technology hailed
as “Star Wars stuff” by one surgeon was hurried to market
before it was ready.
A report out of Colorado illustrates the problem: last year, a hospital
there gushed in the media about its newly available robotic surgery. Gall
bladder operations could now be performed by a surgeon at an elaborate
electronic control console.
A tiny incision would be made in the patient’s bellybutton, minimizing
patient scarring and discomfort.
One Denver surgeon in particular enthused that the new surgical tool and
method “will eventually replace everything else.”
What that doctor didn’t say was that 10 of his patients had sustained
injuries or experienced complications in their robotic surgeries performed
between 2008 and 2011, according to the state’s medical board. Half
of them had had their arteries torn or punctured.
Two other patients had had objects temporarily left in their bodies following
the procedures. At least one other patient experienced nerve damage as
the result of the robotic surgery.
All of that was left out of the hospital’s breathless press releases
touting the new technology in an effort to lure business to the facility.
While hospitals would prefer that those kinds of hard facts be kept hidden
from the public, those who are injured by a doctor’s negligence
know that they can only receive compensation when the facts are brought
into the open. That process begins with a conversation with an attorney
experienced in complex medical malpractice litigation.