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Does robotic surgery really benefit New York patients?

Many hospitals in Queens, New York, find robotic surgery as a gift of technology. Despite that, the advanced medical apparatus is facing numerous criticisms regarding worsened conditions of patients, potential medical errors and unreported adverse effects.

For example, a woman went through a computer-assisted surgery for a hysterectomy, a surgical operation to remove the uterus. However, the robotic surgery went terribly wrong, leaving the 45-year-old woman with a badly burned rectum after the operation. The patient later discovered that the high-tech medical equipment used in her surgery, an Intuitive Surgical system, was linked to a variety of injuries from patients who underwent the same operation. The woman filed a lawsuit against her doctor and the manufacturer of the apparatus.

Reportedly, the woman's story is just one of the incidences of medical errors associated with robotic surgeries that are underreported. Although hospitals are required to list injuries and fatalities, the Department of Health and Human Services learned that the number of incidents reported by hospitals is low. The low rate may mean that some hospitals are failing to accurately report those adverse events. Unfortunately, the underreported incidents are not helping patients to understand the risks of robotic surgery.

An expert noted that inadequate training of doctors with regards to robotic surgery may be a factor in potential medical errors. Reportedly, there are some doctors who used the equipment after completing just a short course together with operations supervised by experts.

Through November 2013, the Food and Drug Administration received 3,697 reports of incidents including malfunctions, injuries and deaths linked to robotically-assisted surgeries.

Worsening conditions, complications, or death caused by accidents involving robotic surgery in a New York hospital are considerably difficult for a patient and their family. Hospital negligence or doctor errors, which may be the substantial factors in such medical errors, could give rise to a medical malpractice lawsuit. The claim may hold the negligent parties accountable for the negative outcome of their actions.

Source: SFGate, "Robotic surgery injury reports lacking, critics say," Robert Langreth, Jan. 1, 2013

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