Power Morcellator Litigation: How Strong is Your Case?

Power morcellator procedures are a risky business — especially when patients are subjected to long-term and life-threatening consequences. There’s no question that complications from power morcellator procedures have led to a brisk business in morcellator litigation. That’s why, as an attorney, it’s crucial to be able to assess the strengths — and weaknesses — of a client’s potential case to achieve the best outcome.

For those in the legal field, the repercussions with regard to pain, suffering, illness — and even wrongful death — for plaintiffs has justly given rise to a tide of considerable damage claims for those affected. But how can you be certain that you’ve got a viable case? Does your docket have what it takes to deliver a strong and profitable settlement for your client?

Power morcellators came under fire when it was learned that without proper tissue containment, their use could result in the spread endometrial tissue as well as previously undetected carcinomas. According to Dallas, Texas-based Ob-Gyn Dr. Ezell Autrey, MD, patients who undergo surgical procedures involving power morcellators, are in effect, rolling the dice as far as their health and well being is concerned. Dr. Autrey admits that while it’s possible to experience such surgery without incident, morcellators very much up the odds of adverse consequences. “Unfortunately, some cancers cannot be detected prior to removing them from the body and sending them to pathology for assessment,” he explains. “The morcellator goes in with a blade that chews into the uterus or ovaries, and since there’s no bag or sack to contain it, spreads the [potentially harmful] material around.”

His opposition to morcellators is so strong, in fact, that Dr. Autrey has never used them during a surgical procedure. He believes that traditional operations (whether via an abdominal incision or a vaginal removal) in which the uterus and ovaries are taken out intact, is a much safer option.

So why the boom morcellator use? Morcellation, which can be performed quickly, allowed surgeons to increase the number of procedures they were able to perform, and minimize the duration of anesthesia. As everyone knows, standard surgery is much more time consuming. The appeal of a device that could improve efficiency was obvious, but unfortunately, the manufacturers were not as forthcoming with the morcellator’s drawbacks. Currently, there is no specific certification for morcellator use. Doctors have not been routinely educated with regard to certain risk factors, and women facing surgery were not apprised of other options. Lack of critical information about morcellators for both doctors and patients has resulted in a landscape now littered with morcellator litigation.

Circling The Wagons

This past April, in the wake of alarming growing anecdotal evidence along with mounting pressure from the FDA that suggested power morcellators were potentially responsible for spreading undetected cancers in patients who’d undergone routine laparoscopic hysterectomies and fibroid myomectomy procedures, Johnson & Johnson, a leading manufacturer, pulled three of their most popular units from the market and ordered a re-call. Many in the medical community were quick to pull an about-face, distancing themselves from a device once considered the gold standard in “cutting-edge” surgical technology. Unsurprisingly, as more and more women treated via power morcellation were subsequently diagnosed with post-operative cancer, the incidence of power morcellator litigation also increased exponentially.