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Osaka Pref. hospital reveals patient died during robot-assisted surgery in 2020

(Getty Images)

OSAKA -- A patient at a west Japan hospital died following medical malpractice involving robot-assisted surgery performed in October 2020, the institution said May 19.

    Suita Municipal Hospital in Osaka Prefecture announced that a male patient in his 60s with lung cancer died as a result of excessive bleeding from the aorta, which the surgeon damaged when moving the forceps. The hospital said there were no defects in the robot, and has reached a settlement with the bereaved family.

    According to the hospital, the patient was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2020. On Oct. 27 that year, the patient underwent surgery with the da Vinci robotic surgical system. During an endoscopic operation to cut out parts of the lung, the patient's aorta was damaged by the forceps, which are used to grasp tissue, leading to massive bleeding. He died 17 days later from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy -- a brain dysfunction caused by lack of oxygen. The surgeon reportedly touched the aorta with the forceps when he subconsciously moved them outside the range captured by the camera.

    The medical world has high hopes for the da Vinci system as a robot that can assist surgery while allowing more delicate and complex movements than human hands can perform. Suita Municipal Hospital introduced the system in 2018, and had used it in 138 surgeries as of late April 2022. The surgery in question was the surgeon's 25th operation.

    The hospital set up a committee to investigate the accident and compiled a report in June 2021. It reached a settlement with the bereaved family in January 2022, and reportedly also obtained consent to publicly disclose the matter.

    The hospital commented, "We deeply apologize to our patient and his family. Our entire hospital would like to make efforts to secure medical safety."

    (Japanese original by Mari Misumi, Osaka Bureau)

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