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Personal Injury Lawsuits Affect da Vinci Robot Manufacturer

January 2, 2013

Citron Research, led by noted stock market analyst Andrew Left, has recently published a report on its website predicting that the stock price of Intuitive Surgical, the company behind the da Vinci surgical robot, will drop by more than half in the coming 18 months. Intuitive’s current price is $590 per share, but Citron’s team of analysts has examined data from the past few months and found numerous warning signs of a potential crash, like “a number of new product liability lawsuits filed in recent months; the company’s own chairman, Lonnie Smith, selling off $50 million of his own shares in the company; mounting criticism in the medical community; and Intuitive Surgical’s own sales force, which is losing confidence in management and suspects that they have oversaturated the market with the da Vinci robot.”

More important than all of these factors, as noted by Austin Kirk on, is that Citron’s report asserts that “the issue of most concern is the lack of any scientific evidence that the da Vinci benefits patients.” Citron expects that lawsuits will bring this issue to greater prominence in the media and among the public, and Kirk continues, “Intuitive Surgical faces a growing number of da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits, which have been filed on behalf of individuals who experienced problems following procedures where the robot caused severe internal injuries, such as cuts, tears and burns to nearby arteries or organs.”

The report adds that the company has a history of “excessive and unjustified marketing claims” and that it has used fear tactics in suggesting that surgeries with the unit are more likely to be successful than those done by hand. This has reportedly caused hospitals to feel pressured to buy these $1.5 — $2.5 million machines that take hundreds of hours of training and preparation for surgeons to master (Intuitive Surgical provides only two days of training). Citron also writes in its report that in the majority of these cases, surgeons are not named as defendants. This suggests that attorneys feel the fault lies with the device and its manufacturer rather than the professionals operating it.

High profile Johns Hopkins surgeon and author Marty Makary commented in the Chicago Tribune earlier this year: “The robot is the symbol of the current American health care marketplace–rapid widespread adoption with little to no evidence to support it and increased costs.”

You can find an earlier post on this blog titled, “Lack of Training, Electrical Burns Lead to da Vinci Surgical Robot Lawsuits,” which addresses issues like how the robot itself operates, how surgeons control it, how popular it has become, and the varieties of burns and tears that have resulted from its use in surgeries and how these could potentially lead to cases involving medical negligence alongside a potentially defective medical device in the hands of undertrained doctors.


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