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Patients Scarred After Robotic Surgery
Patients Scarred After Robotic Surgery

CNBC; April 19, 2013

Shawn Todd, who lives just outside of Mobile, Ala., thought she was having a routine partial hysterectomy.

For Sonya Melton of Birmingham, it was routine same-day gynecological surgery to treat uterine fibroids.

And for Kimberly McCalla, just 24, it was supposed to be a routine hysterectomy.

But none of the procedures turned out to be routine.

Todd and Melton wound up at what they believe was death's door, hospitalized for weeks from complications from their surgery involving the high-tech da Vinci robot.

McCalla suffered bleeding into her pelvis from a laceration to a main artery during a robotic-assisted hysterectomy, her father claims. She died 13 days after the initial surgery. Her father, who is suing Intuitive Surgical, claims she died "as the result of, among other things, injuries sustained by the use of the da Vinci surgical robot."

"Blood was flowing from her leg, from between her legs," her father, Gilmore McCalla, told CNBC. "And two nurses were there around her, catching the blood with a bottle."

Intuitive Surgical, which makes the da Vinci, declined to discuss their cases because of pending litigation.

Most robotic procedures take place without a hitch, but there are a growing number of complaints and lawsuits that allege complications and even deaths from the da Vinci surgery.

"The robot has a place in surgery," said Dr. Francois Blaudeau, a lawyer and practicing Alabama gynecologist who is serving as the lead plaintiffs' attorney on a slew of cases focused on da Vinci-related injuries.

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