Patient Safety News: One doctors fight against power morcellation

Married doctors in Philadelphia this week shared their intensely personal story about fighting cancer, which they believe was spread by a power morcellator, a device that until recently had been commonly used during gynecological surgeries.

The brave battle being waged by Dr. Amy Reed and her husband, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article details the leiomyosarcoma cancer that Reed has been fighting since undergoing a hysterectomy in October of 2013, after she was diagnosed with fibroids.

Unfortunately, doctors were not aware that the fibroids were cancerous. By using a power morcellator to break down and remove the tissue, surgeons inadvertently spread the cancer, which would have been much easier to combat if it had not been disturbed. Reed told the newspaper that she had not been told the device would be used in her surgery, or that it posed risks. Since the procedure, the aggressive cancer has spread throughout Reed’s body, including her spine, lung, pelvis, and thigh. Reed and Noorchashm are leaders in the effort to outlaw laparoscopic power morcellation.

For more information about uterine fibroid procedure risks, please see this video.

Susan Faunce, an attorney at Berman & Simmons who handles cases involving dangerous drugs and medical devices, commended the couple for their courage and their role in exposing the dangers of power morcellation. Working in collaboration with other national law firms, Berman & Simmons is handling legal claims involving women who were diagnosed with cancer after a gynecological surgery involving morcellation.

“The story shared by Dr. Reed is heartbreaking. This is a 42-year-old mother, with six children and a career in which she helps others,” Faunce said. “This didn’t have to happen. If surgeons had opted to remove her sarcomas intact, her chances at survival would have increased dramatically. It’s a tragedy that Dr. Reed and so many other women and their families have suffered because of this dangerous device.”

Here’s an excerpt from the newspaper article:

“The FDA now warns against power morcellation in almost all cases; it estimates that the risk of spreading an undetected sarcoma during hysterectomy or fibroid removal is about 1 in 350 – not 1 in 10,000, as gynecologists formerly asserted.

Johnson & Johnson has withdrawn its leading morcellator brand from the market. Most insurers have stopped covering it. Hospitals have abandoned or restricted its use, and made informed consent a requirement. The FBI and the Government Accountability Office are investigating why it took 20 years for regulators to warn of the risks.”