A lawsuit brought against Denver surgeon Dr. Warren Kortz alleges he botched surgeries and left surgical instruments and sponges inside patients.
Kortz, a surgeon at Porter Adventist Hospital, was placed on precautionary suspension after 11 kidney surgeries he performed, some of which with a robotic surgical arm, resulted in complications.
The Colorado Medical Board filed 14 counts of unprofessional conduct against Kortz after patients suffered nerve damage and internal bleeding. One elderly patient suffered a torn aorta and was later taken off life support, CBS News reported.
The hospital began using a da Vinci Robot for surgeries in 2008. According to the suit, Kortz “told patients the safest, best option for the was the robot” and that he “never offered standard surgical procedure as an option for his patients.” The Colorado Medical Board accused Kortz of “misrepresenting patients.”
In several cases, Kortz switched to manual procedures after he injured a patient using the surgery robot. The suit claims the surgeon subjected patients to unnecessarily long procedures because he used improper padding and positioning.
The da Vinci Surgical System, created by Intuitive Surgical, is the only robotic system the Food and Drug Administration has approved for soft-tissue surgery. It features a three-or four-armed robot operated by hand controls at a computer station. A tiny camera on one arm allows the doctor to see the patient from the nearby computer.
The federal government has now launched an investigation into the multi-million dollar robotic surgical system which is currently used in thousands of hospitals worldwide. The FDA is looking into increased reports of adverse incidents, like blood vessels being nicked and organ perforated by the machine, and at least five deaths from the procedure since Jan. 2012. The robot was used in nearly 400,000 procedures last year.
The FDA has begun surveying doctors who use the da Vinci Surgical System. In response, Intuitive Surgical claimed the robot had “an excellent safety record with over 1.5 million surgeries performed globally, and total adverse event rates have remained low and in line with historical trends.”
In a past interview with CBS, Kortz seemed sure the robot was the wave of the future.
"I'm sure a day will come where perhaps the robot has a technical failure. I'd be hard-pressed to say, 'I think we need to cancel.' We could go back to the old technology but I don't think that's right," Kortz told told CBS 4 in a 2009 interview.
Kortz’s lawyers said that patients knew the risks of the procedures before surgery.
His attorney in the negligence suit of one kidney patient, Lisanne Leasure, said Kortz’s method was “reasonable and appropriate.” She said he was a “very experienced and excellent surgeon who has helped many Coloradans over his lengthy career."