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Who is Legally Responsible for Idaho Surgical Errors Caused By Robotic Technologies?

New automated surgical technologies have introduced exciting possibilities for patient care. They have also presented a unique legal question: When robots make surgical errors, who is legally responsible for the resulting damage?

The answer is often not a simple one, as medical malpractice and product liability cases are among the more complex areas of law. But doctors, surgeons, hospitals and robot manufacturers may all share some of the blame.

Two Tragic Cases

In California, one hysterectomy patient learned the hard way that surgical robots can make errors. Her doctor had explained that a traditional procedure would require six to eight weeks of recovery. A robotic procedure - in which a surgeon guides the robot  - would require only seven to ten days of recovery. According to Mercury News, her recovery ultimately became a period of 10 corrective surgeries over seven years. This is because the surgical robot punctured an internal organ during the initial hysterectomy procedure.

The problem is not limited to a single patient, either. Mercury News also reports that the robot's manufacturer faced 3,000 products liability claims between 2004 and 2013. Many of these claims cited similar problems: Damage to an internal organ.

A similar case out of Boston had an even more tragic outcome. Due to fibroid tumors that were contained within the uterus, a patient had a hysterectomy performed. Shortly after the procedure she was found to have aggressive Stage 4 cancer. Only then did she and her husband learn that the procedure had been performed with a power morcellator - a surgical device cuts body tissue into small pieces for easier removal. In this patient's case, it cut into malignant tumors, and sprayed cancer cells throughout her abdominal cavity. The New York Times reports that she and her husband fought passionately against the use of this tool until her death. She lived only four years after her initial procedure.

Medical Malpractice Liability for Dangerous Tools

These cases lead to similar legal claims by the two plaintiffs. In both cases, a products liability claim focused on the manufacturer of the dangerous medical device. Manufacturers are legally responsible for the safety of their products.

If a product is negligently designed, the manufacturer can be legally obligated to compensate injury victims.

In some cases, a doctor or surgeon may also be liable for using a dangerous device. This is more likely when the device has a specific risk which a doctor knew about, or should have known about. It is also important to contact an attorney as soon as malpractice is discovered or suspected. Section 5-219 of the Idaho Statutes allows a claimant only two years to file a lawsuit for professional negligence.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a surgical error, contact a knowledgeable Meridian medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. You may have grounds to pursue an injury lawsuit against numerous defendants.

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