Morcellation Wrongful Death
Written by Faith Anderson on February 12, 2015
Wrongful Death Suits Filed Over Spread of Cancer Following Morcellation Hysterectomies
Women who undergo hysterectomies with power morcellation may be at risk for undiagnosed uterine cancer spreading throughout their bodies.
At least two new wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary this week, alleging that two women died from the spread of leiomyosarcoma cancer following a hysterectomy procedure in which power morcellation was used. The cases join a growing number of similar power morcellation lawsuits filed against Ethicon and other makers of power morcellators, which have been used in recent years to allow doctors to perform minimally-invasive, laparoscopic hysterectomies or uterine fibroid removal surgeries. If you believe you have been harmed by side effects of power morcellation, our consumer advocates at the Consumer Justice Foundation can help put you in touch with a reputable attorney who has experience handling power morcellator cancer claims.
Potential Risks of Power Morcellation
Power morcellators are surgical devices commonly used in the past during hysterectomy and uterine fibroid removal surgeries, to cut up and remove the tissue through a small incision in the abdomen, in order to reduce recovery time and limit the risk of surgical complications. In recent years, however, serious concerns have been raised about the safety of power morcellators, as some women may have undiagnosed cancer hidden within their uterus, which could be spread throughout the body by power morcellation. For these women, the dissemination of leiomyosarcoma or other aggressive uterine cancers could upstage the cancer and significantly reduce their chances for long-term survival.
Power Morcellation May Lead to Cancer Diagnosis
One wrongful death suit was filed last week by the husband of Cynthia Ostrander, a South Carolina woman who died in September 2014, less than two years after undergoing a hysterectomy and cystoscopy procedure with an Ethicon Gynecare Morcellex power morcellator. According to allegations raised in John Ostrander’s complaint, his wife underwent the standard procedures designed to identify and diagnose cancer prior to the surgery, but none was detected. “The leiomyosarcome cancer tissue in Ms. Ostrander would have remained encapsulated but for the tissue shredding and tissue dissemination of the Gynecare Morcellex,” the lawsuit states. Ostrander died two months after J&J announced an Ethicon power morcellator recall, indicating that the company would no longer manufacture the devices, since there was no way to prevent them from spreading cancer.
A similar wrongful death complaint was brought last week by Arthur Johnson, on behalf of himself and his late wife, Jonel Rollins-Davis-Johnson, who died less than one year after undergoing a robotic total laparoscopic hysterectomy in June 2012, during which an Ethicon Morcellex Sigma Tissue Morcellator was used. Like Cynthia Ostrander, Jonel Rollins-Davis-Johnson also underwent testing and evaluation prior to surgery, but doctors found no evidence of cancer. Following the procedure however, tissue removed during the hysterectomy was found to contain leiomyosarcoma cancer cells, and so Ostrander underwent another operation in August 2012, at which point is was determined that the cancer had spread to her right fallopian tube. She died in February 2013.
Women at Risk for the Dissemination of Uterine Cancer
Due to aggressive marketing on the part of the companies manufacturing power morcellators, the surgical devices became increasingly popular among surgeons performing hysterectomies and uterine fibroid removal surgeries, although most doctors were unaware that some women undergoing surgery with power morcellation may face an increased risk of undiagnosed cancer spreading throughout their bodies. According to estimates provided by the FDA, one out of every 350 women undergoing a laparoscopic hysterectomy with morcellation may have unsuspected sarcoma, which cannot be detected prior to surgery, and may be at risk for the dissemination of aggressive uterine cancer possibly leading to death.