Surgical Robot Marketing Strategy Hides Potential Flaws

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • 21
  • August

When you visit with a doctor about a health problem, medical staff expects you to be 100 percent truthful about the possible cause of your symptoms-Do you drink heavily? Do you smoke? How often do you exercise? These are a few questions they expect you to answer with complete honesty. However, this standard of disclosure may not be the same for doctors themselves.

Patients who suffered injuries after receiving medical care from doctors using the da Vinci Surgical Robot System are claiming that they were not informed of the possible risks and disadvantages of the surgical robot procedures.

A recent study appearing in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reviewed information that hospitals throughout the country provided to patients about the da Vinci Surgical System on their websites. Of the 432 hospital websites that were visited, the study revealed that none of the hospitals mentioned the potential disadvantages associated with da Vinci procedures.

Instead, many of the websites simply echoed marketing claims made by Intuitive Surgical, the medical product manufacturer of the da Vinci Surgical Robot. One in six websites told consumers that "you owe it to yourself" to use the surgical robot system. Dr. Jason Wright, a gynecologic surgeon at Columbia University in New York, and the study's lead author, explains that this is typical marketing behavior. He suggested that many of the claims made by hospitals were "not supported by high quality data."

The da Vinci Surgical Robot System, which is installed in hundreds of hospitals world-wide, is used to perform a variety of medical procedures, including heart bypass and valve repair operations, hysterectomies, prostate removal surgeries, weight loss surgery, and surgical treatment of bladder, kidney, colorectal, gynecological, prostate and throat cancers.

While it is true that the da Vinci Surgical Robot offers advantages over traditional open surgery, the system is not without flaws. There have been at least four personal injury lawsuits involving the da Vinci Surgical Robot. The lawsuits claim that the robot system caused serious injuries including internal injuries, burns, tears and other complications, some of which have resulted in chronic pain, disability, and even death. The lawsuits fault the marketing tactics used by Intuitive Surgical to convince hospitals to purchase the expensive surgical robot, and allege that design flaws in the robot, along with with poor physician training on the device, have resulted in these injuries.

While doctors rely on patients to provide truthful accounts of their health in order to make correct diagnosis and provide proper care, patients also rely on doctors to supply them with unbiased and informed opinions. When hospitals and their employees fail to disclose important information about procedures, patients are the ones who suffer.

Source:, Study Questions Hospitals' Marketing of Da Vinci Surgical Robot, July 24, 2012.

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