Da Vinci surgical robots the subject of local, national lawsuits - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Da Vinci surgical robots the subject of local, national lawsuits

The Da Vinci Robot The Da Vinci Robot
New Orleans, La. -

Robotic surgery has become a common option in hospitals, touted as a safer, less invasive operation. But dozens of patients in Louisiana and more than a thousand around the country are suing the makers of the da Vinci robot devices, claiming they or their loved ones have died or had serious complications because of the high-tech procedures.

"It's like kids playing a video game and you're out of the hospital 24 hours later." said Bob Fresneda.

He had his prostate removed years ago using robot surgery. Everything turned out fine. Reserve attorney Danny Becnel says Fresneda is lucky.

"We had one African American girl from New York that went in for a procedure.They cut her artery and she bled to death on the operating table," Becnel said.

He is the lead attorney on more than 1,000 cases around the country involving the da Vinci Surgical System. He's partnering with Dr. Francois Blaudeau, a Birmingham, Ala. OB-GYN and also an attorney.

"We're suing for individuals for their injuries, stock holders who have lost all this money because of devaluation of their stock," said Becnel.

The two are working with 30 lawyers around the country.

In robotic surgeries, doctors guide surgical instruments through small incisions in the abdomen and manipulate robotic arms with a controller and a video monitor.

Becnel says he's seen a growing number of complaints such as burns and other damage to intestines and organs. He ticks off the side effects that have happened to some of his clients.

"What happens is this robotic surgery device has monopolar energy that attacks errant electricity," the attorney told us.  "It will hit if you're doing a hysterectomy. It can hit the bladder and it can hit the bowel."

Becnel just filed 17 cases in federal court. He says it's not the technology that's the problem; it's the lack of experience by doctors.

"This device is a good device. However nobody learned this device in medical school because it did not exist. Now all the young doctors are learning to do this on pigs," he said.

Becnel says this is not a class action suit. These are individual cases. "We'll consolidate them somewhere in the country if we don't settle them," he said.

The California company Intuitive Surgical is the maker of the da Vinci robot. A spokeswoman declined comment due to pending litigation

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