Already the target of increasing lawsuits for medical complications related to its da Vinci Surgical System, Intuitive Surgical Inc. recently came under fire for an advertisement that features the endorsement of a hospital’s surgical team.
In January, Intuitive Surgical placed a full-page ad in The New York Times Magazine that features 12 members of the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System’s surgical team and the text, “We believe in da Vinci surgery because our patients benefit.” As the recent NPR article “Doctors Court Controversy in Ad for Surgical Robot” details, the advertisement may violate University of Illinois policy as well as state law.
The ad in question contains the disclaimer: “Some surgeons who appear in this ad have received compensation from the company for providing educational services to other surgeons and patients.” While ads for prescription drugs and medical devices that feature physician testimonials are relatively common, the university in this case has been questioned about its health system apparently endorsing a product—and a troubled one at that.
The Chicago Tribune article “U of I Doctors Under Scrutiny for Surgical Robot Ad” states that some of the doctors featured in the ad did not first disclose their financial ties to Intuitive Surgical as required by university policy. According to the article, university officials asked Intuitive Surgical to discontinue the ad and acknowledged that its participation may have been an error.
From a patient’s perspective, the ad raises concerns about whether physicians are offering objective recommendations about robotic surgery compared with other treatment options. Especially at a time when da Vinci Surgical Systems are the subject of growing lawsuits that allege the robot-assisted surgery devices caused severe personal injury.
The da Vinci Surgical System is widely used in Kentucky, Indiana and across the country in common surgical procedures including prostate surgery, kidney surgery, heart surgery, hysterectomies and other treatments. Robotic-assisted surgery is often pitched as a faster, minimally invasive procedure when compared to traditional surgical methods.
But a mounting number of lawsuits claim that design flaws, lack of proper training for surgeons, and inadequate research into the da Vinci Surgical System’s risks have led to potentially fatal complications.