Tip #2 for protecting yourself from harm from a medical device: Know the Learning Curve

Here is Tip #2 in for protecting yourself from the Five Dangers most people don’t know about medical devices. Today’s danger is the learning curve. 


Some medical devices come with substantial learning curves.  For instance, achieving “basic competence” in using a surgical robot to perform prostatectomy takes at least 20-25 procedures (see the preview to Ch. 16). We have a client whose deceased husband unwittingly became the surgeon’s third procedure, when a simple ferry ride would have put him in the hands of a doctor who had performed thousands.  That client, tragically, didn’t know what questions to ask.  What’s more disturbing: many doctors (and some courts) believe the doctor doesn’t have to tell you where he or she is in the learning curve of a device.  That means you have to ask and follow up with questions to get specific information.

  • How many times have you used this device?
  • What complications were experienced?
  • What training and certification was received?
  • How long has the doctor held credentials at this hospital to do this procedure?

Then ask another doctor whether this is enough experience for this type of procedure.  Always ask every doctor who they would choose if they or a loved one were in your place. “Who would you have do it on you?”

Peter Mullenix