Power Morcellators: A boon or curse?

A woman from New Jersey, who recently died had filed a lawsuit in the New Jersey District Court for medical malpractice, wherein she claimed of having contracted cancer for the medical authority’s failure to disclose the harms posed by a power morcellator that was used for her surgery. A power morcellator is a device used in minimal invasive surgeries, requiring only half an inch to three-fourth inch incision to enter which then cuts or shreds the tissue into very small parts for their easy removal, saving the patient from an open surgery. As the tissues or cells are chopped, they can attach themselves to various other tissues or linings in the body or spread themselves out. If such tissues or cells are malignant or cancerous and are once attached, they can spread cancer to other parts of the body taking it right from Stage 1 treatable cancer to Stage 4 terminal cancer. See Viviana Ruscitto v. The Valley Hospital, Inc., et al., Case No.2:15-cv-05704 (Filed July 22, 2015).[1]


The victim/ plaintiff herein underwent a hysterectomy last October using a power morcellator to remove a large fibroid. Neither was the risk posed by the power morcellator disclosed to her, nor was she made to sign any consent form. Within few weeks of the surgery, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 leiomyosarcoma, a rare, aggressive and incurable form of cancer.


The lawsuit filed sues a lot of defendants namely, the gynecologic oncologist, the gynecologist, the anesthesiologist, as well as the device manufacturers Karl Storz Endoscopy-America Inc. and the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey. According to the plaintiff’s attorney, the judge in the Federal District Court in New Jersey accepted plaintiff’s appeal taking her testimony from hospital itself since she feared that she might not live long enough to attend the trial. She claimed that the cancer manifested itself quickly due to the medical facility’s carelessness and neglect in using the power morcellator and has sued on grounds of medical malpractice, lack of informed consent, product liability and defective design, inadequate warning, negligence, strict products liability, failure to warn, breach of express and implied warranties, as well as implied warranty of merchantability and finally fraudulent misrepresentation and omission.


There are as many as 21 lawsuits pending on power morcellators, with none decided so far. (See Burkhart v. LiNA Medical U.S., No. 5:14-cv-1557 (E.D. Pa. 2015) and Amy Anderson v. Karl Storz Endoscopy-America Inc, et al, Case No. BC588075 (Filed July 14, 2015). Upon continuous warnings from the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has been asked to consolidate all the cases for trial together.

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