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FDA is investigating surgical robots after death reports

Many Michigan residents may not be aware that when people undergo medical operations in this day and age, someone other than a licensed surgeon might be involved in the procedure. We are talking about robots.

A robot called da Vinci was used in almost 400,000 surgeries in 2012 alone, which was three times as many as in 2008, according to the Associated Press. While some medical professionals have maintained that robotic surgery is as good as or better than surgery at the hands of a human surgeon, the da Vinci is currently under scrutiny as it has been linked to a number of surgical errors and even deaths.

In one case, according to the Associated Press, a robotic hand that grasped tissue during a surgery would not let go of it. In another incident, a robotic arm hit a patient in the face.

The da Vinci is reportedly used for a number of operations, including procedures to remove gallbladders, prostates and wombs, as well as to repair heart valves and transplant organs. In fact, about 85 percent of prostate removal surgeries in the U.S. involve a da Vinci system.

Benefits of using robots include the facts that their hands do not shake, and the surgeons who control the robots from a computer do not tire in the same way they would if physically performing surgery. Some also say that patients of robotic surgery tend to be sent home sooner than patients of conventional surgery.

However, there were at least five deaths linked to the da Vinci last year, and the Food and Drug Administration is now looking into the increase in reported issues. Of course, complications and surgical errors can occur in any type of procedure, so it is unclear whether errors and medical malpractice are more or less common when it comes to robotic surgery.

Anyone who is harmed by a surgical error of any sort may be wise to seek advice from a medical malpractice attorney to learn whether legal recourse may be available.

Source: The Associated Press, "Robot hot among surgeons but FDA taking a new look," Lindsey Tanner, April 9, 2013

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