Cancer Patient Died From Intestinal Tear Caused By Surgical Robot: Lawsuit

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

Sandra Sultzer, who had colon cancer, was admitted in 2021 to Baptist Health Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Boca Raton, Florida, for surgery a doctor performed with the use of a 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, accusing it of negligence and product liability.

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

Surgeons carry out an operation using a da Vinci robotic surgical system.
Surgeons carry out an operation using a da Vinci robotic surgical system.

THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images

According to the lawsuit, Sultzer suffered a burn that caused a tear in her small intestines during surgery and needed additional surgeries to close it.

The lawsuit alleged that Intuitive Surgical was aware of the da Vinci system’s insulation issues, which can cause electricity leakage into patients body, but failed to inform the hospital and staff.

In the months after the surgery, Sultzer experienced abdominal pain and fever. According to the lawsuit, Sultzer underwent a number of medical procedures due to her injuries.

“The injury suffered by Mrs. Sultzer caused her pain and emotional distress,” the lawsuit says. “Mrs. Sultzer incurred expense of medical care, hospitalization, treatment, nursing care and treatment, and the expense of rehabilitative care and treatment.”

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

“Had ISI safely designed its product so that stray electrical energy would not burn the insides of patients without the knowledge or control of the operating surgeons, the small intestine injury to Mrs. Sultzer would not have happened, and she would not have died,” according to the suit.

Intuitive Surgical had received thousands of reports citing “dangerous injuries,” including internal organ burns, that were allegedly caused by the robot’s electrical discharge, the lawsuit says.

The company was also named in a number of liability lawsuits across the United States that claimed patients were injured or died after surgery with the da Vinci system, according to a recent Securities and Exchange Commission report. Those cases have trial dates scheduled this year.

The lawsuit also alleged that Intuitive Surgical “bullies hospitals and physicians to purchase and use the robot.”

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

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