Women undergoing myomectomies and hysterectomies may risk the unintentional spread of uterine cancer. The culprit is thought to be a medical procedure called power morcellation, which uses a device called a power morcellator to cut up tissue inside the body before removing it during laparoscopic surgery. Several patients and their surviving relatives have already filed power morcellation lawsuits.
Understanding Power Morcellation
Doctors use power morcellators to perform laparoscopic surgical procedures in hard to reach areas. The small surgical tool allows doctors to cut up tissue and organs and remove them using minimally invasive surgical techniques. The use of smaller incisions during laparoscopic surgery makes operations go faster, shortens patient recovery periods, and reduces exterior scarring after surgery. Power morcellators have mainly been used to perform myomectomies (the removal of uterine fibroids) and hysterectomies (the removal of the uterus) in women.
Recent safety concerns have overshadowed the convenience of power morcellation. Women who unknowingly have uterine cancer are at risk of having their cancer spread following surgery. Power morcellators cut up uterine fibroids during myomectomies and the uterus itself during hysterectomies. When the targeted tissue contains cancer, cutting it up inside the body can cause that cancer to spread throughout the pelvis and abdomen. This can greatly exacerbate a patient's health problems and worsen the odds of long-term survival.
Government, Doctors, and Manufacturers Respond
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently weighed in on the controversy. On April 17, 2014, the agency issued an alert discouraging the use of power morcellation in myomectomies and hysterectomies. FDA data suggested that as many as 1 in 350 women undergoing these procedures risks the spread of previously undetected uterine cancer, a rate far higher than previously believed.
Doctors and manufacturers have taken action as well. Several hospitals have stopped using power morcellators, and surgeons have switched to using less risky alternative procedures. Manufacturers have also responded. On April 30, 2014, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced that it was temporarily suspending the sale of power morcellators worldwide. Three months later, J&J withdrew their already sold power morcellators from the market by requesting that doctors and hospitals return them to the company. Some critics have noted that the relatively quick voluntary withdrawal may be related to Johnson & Johnson's expensive lawsuits related to other defective products including hip and pelvic mesh implants.
Anticipated Power Morcellation Lawsuits
Several power morcellation lawsuits have already been filed. More are expected to follow as women who had myomectomies and hysterectomies confront the spread of uterine cancer. These lawsuits can help patients and surviving relatives recover monetary compensation for their injuries from those responsible. While power morcellation lawsuits are still in an early stage, they’re expected to rely on one or more of the following theories of liability.
Patients who are injured while undergoing a surgical procedure may be able to sue the doctors, hospital, and medical staff who operated on them for medical malpractice. Doctors and hospitals owe a duty of care to their patients when performing surgery or offering medical advice. When patients suffer an injury after undergoing a surgical procedure, a doctor's professional negligence may be to blame. Women who suffer injuries after undergoing myomectomies or hysterectomies using power morcellation should consider whether their doctor informed them about the risks of the procedure and performed the surgery with adequate care.
Patients may also be able to sue the manufacturer of the medical device that caused their injuries. Products sold on the marketplace must be safe for consumer use. When a product is found to be dangerous or defective, a product liability lawsuit can hold the manufacturer accountable for any injuries caused by the defective product.
The manufacturers of power morcellators can potentially be found liable for patient injuries under a number of product liability claims. It may be determined that the manufacturer failed to warn doctors and patients about the safety concerns associated with using power morcellators. In addition, a jury may conclude that power morcellators were defectively designed. Finally, a manufacturer may be found liable for patient injuries based on the breach of product warranties as well.
Several women have died from cancer after undergoing myomectomies or hysterectomies where power morcellation was used. When a patient dies, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation from the parties responsible. This can include funeral costs, outstanding medical bills, and other immediate expenses that follow the death of a loved one. It can also help families overcome financial hardship by recovering compensation for lost income, lost support, and other damages.
Getting Legal Help
While a successful lawsuit can provide patients and their loved ones with financial compensation, navigating the intricacies of product liability and medical malpractice law can be a difficult task. Patients who have been injured as the result of a power morcellation procedure should contact an experienced attorney for a claim evaluation. A product liability lawyer will be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case and advise you on a course of action.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.