Posted by Bill Sandweg on 28 March 2016.
I have written twice about the developing story of power morcellators. You can find the links here and here. The drama continues. To refresh your recollection, the power morcellator is a tool used by gynecological surgeons mostly in laparoscopic myomectomies, that is laparoscopic procedures to remove uterine fibroids. A small incision is used to allow entry of the tools used by the surgeon to identify and cut out the fibroids. Once all the fibroids have been cut out, they must be removed from the uterus. They can be removed the old fashioned way, which involves placing them in a bag and removing the bag. This can be time consuming, however, and may necessitate enlarging an incision. An alternative is to use a power morcellator to churn up the fibroids so that they can be washed out through the existing incisions. Think of the blender on your kitchen counter top. The problem is that it is estimated 1 in 350 women undergoing myomectomies have one or more fibroids which have already turned cancerous. The churning up of these fibroids spreads the cancer.
Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit was the largest of the manufacturers of power morcellators and pretty much dominated the market. An estimated 100 personal injury cases have been filed against Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) over their power morcellators and the company has begun to settle many of them. According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, J&J has settled about 70 cases so far. Apparently most, if not all, of these settlements involve a confidentiality clause prohibiting the victim from sharing her story. J&J suspended sales of its power morcellators in April of 2014 and withdrew them from the market in July of that same year.
The General Accounting Office continues to investigate why the FDA allowed J&J and others to market power morcellators for 20 years before it warned that their use could spread cancer cells. The FDA has pledged to cooperate in the investigation.
If you have undergone a uterine procedure in which a power morcellator was used and you have developed uterine cancer, you need to speak to a qualified attorney about your circumstances and your rights.