publication date: Sep. 26, 2014

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By Richard Ablin and Ronald Piana

In America, cutting-edge inventions are seen as the gateway to the future. However, the hazard of credulously accepting new technology into medical practice was warned against in a 2008 Journal of the American Medical Association editorial “Gizmo Idolatry.”

The term “gizmo idolatry” describes the conviction that a high-tech approach is better than a low-tech approach, even if there’s no evidence to support that view. A glaring example of medical “gizmo idolatry” is the da Vinci Surgical System. Without credible data to prove its safety and benefit in complex surgeries, this costly robotic machine has been promoted into near ubiquitous use in hospitals across the nation.

The da Vinci surgical robot; however, is merely a symptom of the larger malady in our fee-for-service healthcare system, which is inundated with exorbitant drugs and medical technologies of unproven value.

Developed by Intuitive Surgical, the da Vinci Surgical System was approved by the FDA in 2000 for soft-tissue surgery. The approval was based on a trial conducted by Intuitive Surgical. Aside from the obvious conflict-of-interest, the trial had another problem: When 113 men who had da Vinci robotic surgery were compared to 132 men who had standard laparoscopy, the robotic surgery was no more effective than laparoscopy. More disconcerting, the surgery used in the study was gallbladder removal. This simple procedure is as far removed as can be imagined from the incredibly complex challenge of radical prostatectomy, for example, with its devastating side effects of incontinence and loss of sexual function.

After gaining FDA approval, da Vinci’s marketing team sought out … Continue reading 40-36 Guest Editorial: Da Vinci’s Radical Robot

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