More hospitals are opting to purchase expensive robotic surgery systems, such as Intuitive Surgical’s Da Vinci Surgery Robot, despite serious questions surrounding their safety and efficacy. While such devices promise patients a quicker recovery and smaller incisions, a growing number of Da Vinci Surgery Robot lawsuits are claiming that design defects and surgeon inexperience with the machines are leading to serious, life-threatening complications, including surgical burns and organ damage.

According to a report published over the summer by The Seattle Times, many hospitals are willing to shell out as much as $2.6 million for a Da Vinci Surgery Robot, thanks to Intuitive Surgical’s promises of increased market share. In the competition for patients, hospital’s say they can’t afford not to use this latest technology. But the proliferation of the machines has many doctors and patient advocates concerned. According to the Times, critics and some Da Vinci Surgery Robot lawsuits claim that doctors aren’t receiving adequate training on machine, while others complain they are being overused in ways that don’t benefit patients.

The Seattle Times article points out that more than a dozen years after the Da Vinci robot hit the market, there is still no industry standard for training and credentialing of doctors to use the robot. If a surgeon isn’t adequately trained, critics say the Da Vinci robot poses unique risks to patients, including burns and lacerations, both of which are graphically detailed in lawsuits and adverse event reports in the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) database. What’s more, studies assessing the safety and effectiveness of the robot lag.

“What disturbs me is that we haven’t done the thing we always say we should do — which is look at a detailed, randomized trial across institutions to assess whether what we’re offering patients is better,” Dr. John Luber, a Tacoma heart surgeon, told the Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times report also detailed how hospitals use the Da Vinci Robot to give them an edge in the highly-competitive healthcare marketplace. Facilities that adopt the technology usually end up running splashy ads that tout the robot’s supposed benefits, in spite of conflicting study findings on outcomes and complications. Even worse, most hospital ads touting the Da Vinci Robot make little mention of the technology’s potential risks.

Not knowing those risks can have serious consequences for patients. A number of Da Vinci Surgery Robot lawsuits filed in recent months allege patients have suffered severe internal injuries, including burns, tears and other complications, some of which have resulted in death or chronic pain and disability. The complaints point to the aggressive marketing tactics used by Intuitive to convince hospitals to purchase the pricey technology, and allege that design flaws inherent in the robot, along with poor physician training on the device, are to blame for such injuries.

Published November 20, 2012 by