Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania morcellator claim blames device for cancer spread

Traditional surgeries increasingly are being replaced by laparoscopic or "keyhole" surgeries. The minimally-invasive surgical method can produce less scarring, pain and hospital recovery time for patients. Laparoscopies also allow Pittsburgh doctors to spend less time in surgery, perform more operations and, as a result, reap additional financial benefits.

Electric medical devices called morcellators permit surgeons to cut and extract tissue during laparoscopic surgeries. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported morcellators are employed in approximately 11 percent of all hysterectomies, with some risk. The cutting devices have been linked with the spread of a deadly uterine cancer called leiomyosarcoma.

A recently-filed Pennsylvania lawsuit claims the device contributed to the death of a Berks County patient, a woman who underwent a 2012 morcellator hysterectomy in Reading. The woman died within a year of surgery, after developing leiomyosarcoma. The complaint alleges the undiagnosed, aggressive disease metastasized, because the device "seeded" cancer throughout the 53-year-old woman's abdominal cavity.

The product liability wrongful death lawsuit names several defendants, including three morcellator manufacturers who supply the devices to the Reading hospital. The patient's surviving spouse is the plaintiff, represented by an attorney who is also an obstetrician-gynecologist. The lawyer-doctor feels surgeons routinely and wrongly use morcellators without considering whether patients, like women with sizeable uterine fibroids or in menopause, run an increased risk of cancer.

In another part of the country, a 41-year-old doctor is fighting for her life and a reevaluation of the use of morcellators. The anesthesiologist was diagnosed with advanced leiomyosarcoma. The mother of six wants federal officials to recognize the devices may be spreading the cancer to one in every 400-to-1,000 surgical patients – far above the currently-accepted risk rate of one in 10,000 patients.

Medical device manufacturers are responsible for making dangerous products and understating known risks. Compensation is available for Allegheny County patients who've been harmed by defective medical products.

Source: The Inquirer, "Widower sues medical-device maker over hysterectomy" Marie McCullough, Mar. 19, 2014

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