Gynecare Power Morcellator Lawsuit Filed By Woman Battling Leiomyosarcoma

Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit faces a product liability lawsuit filed by a woman diagnosed with leimoyosarcoma following a laparoscopic hysterectomy, which alleges that one of the company’s Gynecare power morcellators caused the hidden uterine cancer to be spread throughout her body.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Babette Davis in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on January 27, indicating that she now must take oral chemotherapy to keep the leiomyosarcoma cancer spread by the hysterectomy surgical tool from killing her.

The lawsuit alleges that the manufacturer failed to adequately disclose the risk of cancer following laparoscopic hysterectomy morcellation, as the device may take hidden sarcomas contained within the uterus and chop up the tissue, causing a rapid dissemination of the aggressive cancer.

During her hysterectomy in November 2008, Davis indicates that doctors used a Gynecare morcellator to cut up the uterus through a small incision in the abdomen. However, a biopsy of the removed tissue taken during the surgery was found to contain leiomyosarcoma cancer cells, which doctors were unable to discover or diagnose before the procedure.

As a result of the leiomyosarcoma diagnosis, Davis underwent multiple cycles of chemotherapy, but by April 11, three large masses were detected in her abdomen and pelvis, confirming that the cancer had spread. She underwent additional chemotherapy and now continues to take harsh oral chemotherapy drugs.

“Plaintiff continues to suffer from abdominal pain, weakness, fatigue and takes oral chemotherapy to treat the life-threatening cancer that use of Defendant’s Gynecare Laparoscopic Power Morcellator caused to disseminate in her body,” the lawsuit states. “Had the Laparoscopic Power Morcellator used on Plaintiff not disseminated her leiomyosarcoma, Plaintiff would not have suffered and continued to suffer these symptoms.”

In recent years, power morcellators have become increasingly popular for use during minimimally invasive hysterectomy and uterine fibroid removal procedures, allowing the doctors to cut up the uterus or fibroids and remove the tissue through a small incision in the abdomen.

While these procedures are designed to reduce recovery time and the risk of infections or other complications, morcellators have largely been abandoned by the medical community since it was discovered that they pose an unreasonable risk of spreading aggressive cancer cells that may be hidden within the uterus of some women, which doctors are unable to detect or diagnose before the surgery.

Davis’s complaint is one of a growing number of laparoscopic morcellator cancer lawsuits filed against Ethicon and other manufacturers of devices sold in recent years. Each of the cases raise similar allegations, indicating that manufacturers sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous medical device, failing to warn about the link between uterine fibroid surgery and cancer.

Since October 2015, all Ethicon morcellator lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system have been consolidated as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil in the District of Kansas. Davis’s complaint will be transferred into the MDL for coordinated discovery and other pretrial proceedings.

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