Are Your Surgical Procedures Being Determined by Salespeople? – Kentucky Injury Law Blog

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Are Your Surgical Procedures Being Determined by Salespeople?

When consulting a surgeon about an upcoming procedure, you assume that he is making decisions with your best health in mind. The method of surgery to be used should be the safest, most effective one available. However, according to a recent medical malpractice lawsuit, this may not be the case.

In Washington, a 67-year-old man went to a medical center for a prostatectomy and was told he would be having the latest and greatest robotic surgery. He ended up with a surgery that took more than twice as long as it should have and numerous complications, including incontinence, damage to his kidney and lung, and a blood infection. It wasn’t because the surgeon opted not to use the new technology. It was because the surgeon had never used the new technology by himself. The widow of the patient, who died four years later, has sued the company that made the robotic surgical device for her husband’s injuries, and apparently she is not the first one.

Just like all other for-profit companies, the goal of medical device manufacturers is to make money. The difference is that their products can injure or kill people if they are sold to those who don’t know how to use them. And that seems to be what happened in this case. Sales representatives are commission-based, so the more devices they sell, the more money they make. Therefore their interest lies in making the sale rather than making sure the doctors are properly trained on how to use the devices. Emails from the manufacturer’s sales staff seem to point to this fact. In one email, a sales manager wrote “Don’t let proctoring or credentialing get in our way,” which means he wants his staff to keep selling the products and not worry about training the surgeons who would be using them. While the responsibility of making sure surgeons can perform their duties ultimately lies with the hospital that employs them, it seems that sales representatives have more influence on the amount of training given than they really should.

What kind of recourse does someone have if they are injured by a surgeon using new technology? If it appears that the surgeon was poorly trained on the device before the procedure, the victim may be able to take legal action against the surgeon, the medical facility where the procedure was done, and the manufacturer of the new technology, especially if there is evidence that their sales people encouraged surgeons to use the equipment on those who weren’t good candidates or to use it without enough training. Victims and their families have the possibility of receiving compensation for lost income, medical bills, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering in the form of compensatory and punitive damages. An experienced Kentucky medical malpractice attorney like Steve Frederick can review your situation and determine whether or not you have a valid claim.


Salesmen in the surgical suite; The New York Times; Roni Caryn Rabin; March 25, 2013

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