Paul Levy says someone should be fired – and he suggests who – for NYT daVinci ad

Former hospital CEO Paul Levy continues his relentless questioning about the proliferation and marketing of robotic surgery systems with a blog post entitled, “Time to fire somebody.”

It’s about an ad in the Sunday New York Times magazine.

The ad was placed by da Vinci Surgery (or Intuitive) – the robotic surgery system company.

But it features names and photos of members of the Division of General, Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.

From Paul Levy’s blog post 1/22/14

Levy notes that the ad has a disclosure that “some surgeons who appear in this ad have received compensation from the company for providing educational services to other surgeons and patients.” Then he writes:

Wait a second.  Whose ad is this?  If it is an ad paid for by the University of Illinois, why doesn’t the University hold the copyright?  If the ad is paid for by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., how can the University allow its name to be used for commercial purposes?

According to its website, “The University of Illinois is the state’s best and most comprehensive public university.”  Hmm, a public university, presumably supported by tax revenues.  The University has a Code of Conduct, which provides, in part:

Those acting on behalf of the University have a general duty to conduct themselves in a manner that will maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the University and take no actions incompatible with their obligations to the University.

He goes on to list his own reading of that code and how it was violated by this ad.

And that is why he thinks someone should be fired for these violations.  He nominates the highest-rank administrator and clinician who gave permission for the ad.

Read the whole piece.

And in the 3 days following this, he wrote about the issue four more times:


Here are some other things Levy has posted about robotic surgery systems – just in the past year!


With the proliferation and marketing of robotic surgery systems, there’s always something to write about.


ADDENDUM on Feb. 20:


The Chicago Tribune has now caught up with the story under the headline, “U of I doctors scrutinized for surgical robot ad.” Excerpt:

“The Tribune also found that some doctors pictured in the ad did not initially disclose their financial ties to the company that makes the robot, Intuitive Surgical Inc., as required by the university’s policies on conflicts of interest.

Intuitive selected the doctors to observe and monitor use of the device at other hospitals, work for which they were paid. The doctors disclosed that information only after the ad was published and the Tribune requested annual disclosure forms. One surgeon received about $16,000 in the most recent one-year reporting period.

For patients, the doctors’ participation in the ad and the lack of transparency raise questions about whether their physicians can offer objective advice when discussing robotic surgery as compared with other options.

U. of I. officials have asked Intuitive Surgical to discontinue the advertisement, and two weeks ago the university launched an investigation into the “circumstances of participation” in the ad. The review is expected to be completed by March 15.

University spokesman Thomas Hardy acknowledged in a statement that the university’s participation may have been a mistake.”


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