Victims and patient advocates will not soon forget the tragedy of power morcellators. The medical device manufacturers’ failure to warn of the potential for morcellators to spread cancerous cells throughout the body cost many women their lives, and now their families are trying to hold the guilty parties responsible.
When power morcellators were first introduced onto the market, they allowed doctors to remove uterine fibroids more easily and in a less invasive manner. The morcellator can grind up uterine fibroids into pieces small enough to be removed through a tiny incision. But the morcellator had a fatal flaw. While most uterine fibroids are benign, some are actually cancerous, and by cutting them into smaller pieces, the morcellator creates the potential for the pieces to spread through the body if left behind after the procedure.
This is exactly what happened to Bathann Woodell. In March 2012, Ms. Woodell underwent laparoscopic uterine surgery using a power morcellator. In October of 2012, an MRI revealed that small cancerous fibroids cut into pieces by the morcellator had spread into Ms. Woodell’s pelvis. She underwent extensive additional surgical and medical treatments, including several rounds of chemotherapy, but her cancer continued to spread.
In September 2015, Ms. Woodell lost her battle with cancer. Now her husband seeks to hold the power morcellator manufacturer responsible for failing to warn of the fatal risks associated with the devices.
The largest morcellator manufacturer, Ethicon, has already begun settling thousands of power morcellator lawsuits and many other manufacturers might follow suit.
Victims like Ms. Woodell have inspired a new Bill, introduced to Congress, that would require doctors to report adverse events related to medical devices to the FDA. This reporting would greatly help the FDA identify potentially harmful devices and remove them from the market. While it will take some time for Congress to vote on the Bill, its passage could revolutionize medical device reporting.