Cancer patient died from ruptured intestine caused by surgical robot: lawsuit

Cancer patient died from ruptured intestine caused by surgical robot: lawsuit

A Florida woman’s death is being blamed on injuries caused when a hospital surgical robot made a hole in her small intestine during cancer surgery, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by her husband.

Sandra Sultzer, who had colon cancer, was admitted in 2021 to Baptist Health Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Boca Raton, Florida, for surgery performed by a doctor using the da Vinci robotic system, according to a lawsuit obtained by HuffPost.

The lawsuit did not name the hospital as a defendant in the civil case, but it did name Intuitive Surgical Inc. (ISI), which makes the robotic device, was accused of negligence and product liability.

Neither Intuitive Surgical nor Baptist Health Boca Raton responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

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Surgeons perform surgery using the da Vinci robotic surgical system.

Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

According to the lawsuit, Sulzer suffered burns that caused her small intestine to rupture during surgery and required additional surgeries to close it.

The lawsuit alleged that Intuitive Surgical was aware of insulation problems with the da Vinci system, which could cause electricity to leak into a patient’s body, but failed to inform the hospital and staff.

In the months following the surgery, Sulzer suffered from abdominal pain and fever. According to the lawsuit, Sulzer underwent a number of medical procedures due to her injuries.

“The injury sustained by Ms. Sulzer caused her pain and emotional distress,” the suit says. “Mrs. Sultzer incurs expenses for medical care, hospitalization and therapy, nursing care and therapy, and expenses for rehabilitative care and treatment.

Sultzer died in February 2022, and the lawsuit claimed it was a “direct and proximate result of the injuries she sustained” from the da Vinci device.

“If ISI had safely designed its product so that stray electrical energy would not burn patients’ internal parts without the surgeons’ knowledge or control, Ms. Sulzer’s small intestine injury would not have occurred, and she would not have died.” According to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Intuitive Surgical received thousands of reports of “serious injuries,” including burns to internal organs, allegedly caused by the robot’s electrical discharge.

The company has also been named in a number of liability lawsuits across the United States that claimed patients were injured or died after surgery using the da Vinci System, according to a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing. A trial date in these cases is scheduled for this year.

The lawsuit also alleged that Intuitive Surgical “bullies hospitals and doctors into purchasing and using the robot.”

According to a 2018 report by NBC News, Intuitive Surgical offers a da Vinci training program, but an NBC investigation found that surgeons are not legally required to complete it.

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(Tags for translation)lawsuit

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