In this country of free market capitalism, a small business can have great success virtually overnight by taking a few chances. Specifically, to earn record profits, do the following: Come up with a hair-brained idea, like a robot that allows a surgeon to operate remotely. Next, bring on the best marketing team money can buy and drum up a huge and impressive marketing scheme. Create flashy, glitzy marketing materials and send charismatic teams out to meet with hospital buying boards. Promise anything the customer wants, just make your device look like a wonder of the future – even if you’re not sure what you are saying is true. Take advantage of the economic downturn and prey on small hospitals that are worried about competing for patients – promise them that this device is the answer to their problems. Then watch as the profits come rolling in. Lawsuits are inevitable, so do what you have to in order to make them go away. Settle them quickly, cut your losses and up the ante on your marketing campaign. Americans will always choose technology over dependability – the promise of new, high-tech solutions is too appealing to the American mind.
Does this sound like the stuff of a bad made-for-TV movie? Made it will provide a plot somewhere down the road, but for now it’s entirely true. It’s the story of the da Vinci surgical system, marketed by Intuitive Surgical. The device, which is now used on a broad basis in U.S. hospitals for performing many surgeries, most commonly prostrate surgery and hysterectomy, is the subject of a growing number of da Vinci robot surgery lawsuits. A variety of highly reputed sources, including leading surgeons, medical associations and respected medical journals say that the assertions made by da Vinci marketing materials are not grounded in facts or backed by measureable data. The claims are generalized, saying robot surgery offers better patient outcomes, less pain and shorter hospitals times – but the claims are made without context, not saying what the outcomes are being measured against. Expert surgeons say that for most doctors, conducting da Vinci surgery actually is accompanied by a higher level of risk that laparoscopy, the other main method of conducting many of these procedures today. Patient outcomes between robotic and non-robotic laparoscopy are similar, except there are more serious internal injuries and side effects when the robot is used. Da Vinci robot surgery lawyers point out that the device would be more aptly compared to the largely outmoded open surgery, which no one argues. But laparoscopy provided these gains over open surgery decades ago.
When the truth is out – that robot surgery actually is no better and probably is even more dangerous – why do hospitals continue to buy the surgery systemsstill choose to purchase the devices? They are very costly and have a steep learning curve for surgeons. Hospitals do this because it continues to be to their benefit financially to do so, as the procedure attracts new patients. Then the further question is, why would patients choose a procedure whose benefits have never been proven? And in light of the severe injuries that patients have suffered, as documented through da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits, why are patients even still willing to try it? Studies have shown that many American patients expect hospital websites to offer sound medical advice that is representative of the views of its doctors. As such, patients trust the word of their hospitals, when in fact hospital publications including websites, videos and brochures are just marketing materials, designed to attract patients. American patients need to wise up and research medical matters for themselves, looking beyond glitzy brochures to sound scientific and medical evidence.