Nearly a year ago, in “Morcellation Lawsuits Expected Over Cancer Risk“, we explained why we anticipated lawsuits over a growing movement, and concern, over the use of power morcellators or morcellation. Related lawsuits and the continued investigation of their use has divided camps in the medical community as victims seek legal recourse and justice. Recent reports from both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal indicate that a criminal investigation may be ongoing and run parallel to civil lawsuits and investigations on behalf of women.
On May 27, 2015, the New York Times reports in “FBI Investigates Whether Harm From Surgical Power Tool Was Ignored“, by Denise Grady & Katie Thomas, on a potential criminal probe over use of the controversial device. As they explain, the morcellators have grown in popularity and use in minimally invasive surgery touted for removal of the uterus. However, in some women undetected cancer cells are literally sprayed around the abdomen like seeds speeding the progression of disease and complications. The reporters contacted a spokesperson for the F.B.I.’s Newark outpost that declined to confirm any inquiry and is qouted as stating: “We just don’t comment on the existence or nonexistence of any investigation“. The authors note that they were not alone in reporting on this story and the potential implications as The Wall Street Journal also featured a related piece by Jennifer Levitz – “FBI Is Investigating Hysterectomy Device Found To Spread Uterine Cancer“.
Levitz piece has a narrower focus that should be of interest to everyone monitoring developments in the litigation and any investigations. She notes that focus of inquiry may include Johnson & Johnson’s knowledge of problems prior to their market withdrawal or recall. She reportedly interviewed three sources that had met with the F.B.I. which included: an unidentified California women that has found 400 patients or relatives claiming they were harmed by the use of laporascopic power morcellators; a doctor that has widely publicized her own story and complications; and a pathologist that alerted J&J to problems as early as 2006.
As Levitz reports, some health insurers and major hospitals have attempted to decrease the use of morecellators in light of ongoing issues over safety and the potential risks.Power morcellators (pictured above in image by Dustin Chambers) are used to cut up benign uterine fibroids. However, they can literally upstage and lead to serious complications. When and by who this exact risk was known is at the center of ongoing debates and lawsuits over the use of all power morcellators. Levitz notes that as early as 2006, Dr. Robert Lamparter, a former pathologist, had corresponded with J&J’s Ethicon division over his concerns that pre-surgery undetected cancer had spread through use of the surgical instruments.
Whether the F.B.I.’s criminal probe results in any prosecution, or criminal fines, remains an open question as alleged scientific debate continues. In the interim, our office continues to evaluate potential cases nationwide on behalf of women and families in search of answers and justice. We explained many basic questions regarding Morcellators and Morcellation in “Morcellation Lawsuits Expected Over Cancer Risk” published here in August 2014. Contact [email protected] or call (954) 524-2820 with any related requests or information.