Leiomyosarcoma Cancer Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Hysterectomy Surgical Device

Nouvag USA and Richard Wolf Medical Instruments Corp. face a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a Virginia man who alleges that his wife died of leiomyosarcoma due to a hysterectomy surgical device manufactured and distributed by the two companies, which caused the aggressive uterine cancer to be rapidly spread throughout her body. 

Jeffery Wilson filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on December 28, on behalf of himself, and his late wife, Marguerite Wilson, who died on New Year’s Eve in 2013 from advanced-stage leiomyosarcoma cancer that was diagnosed following a hysterectomy where morcellation was performed.

Power morcellators are surgical devices used during minimally invasive hysterectomy and myomectomy procedures, allowing surgeons to cut up and remove the uterus or uterine fibroids through a small incision in the abdomen. However, a number of manufacturers of these hysterectomy surgical devices now face lawsuits alleging they are unreasonably dangerous, since they may cause hidden cancers contained within the uterus to be spread throughout the abdomen.

According to the leiomyosarcoma wrongful death lawsuit, Marguerite Wilson underwent a laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy on December 17, 2012. During the procedure, a Morce Power Plus Morcellator, manufactured and distributed by Nouvag and Richard Wolf, was used to grind up and extract the tissues.

Prior to the procedure, Wilson indicates that there was no evidence that his wife had disseminated or metastatic cancer. Marguerite Wilson underwent a mammogram and regular pap smears before the procedure, all of which were benign, and her doctors were unaware of the uterine sarcoma hidden within her uterus, and had no way to detect it.

The lawsuit alleges that the hysterectomy surgical device caused the contained cancer cells to be spread throughout her body, resulting in advanced stage leiomyosarcoma. Wilson underwent severe pain and debilitating cancer treatments before she died just a year later.

“After the surgery, a pathology report showed leiomyosarcoma in the morcellated tissue,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of the morcellation and upstaging of the leiomyosarcoma, Ms. Wilson then endured the horrible pain of radiation treatment, additional painful surgery and treatment, and the fear of dying until she died on December 31, 2013.”

Morcellator Cancer Lawsuits

The case is one of a growing number of power morcellator cancer lawsuits being filed on behalf of female cancer survivors and the relatives of women who died after unsuspected uterine sarcomas were spread by the surgical device during a hysterectomy or uterine fibroid removal.

To date, most of the complaints have been filed against Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary, which was the leading manufacturer of the devices before the company decided to stop making morcellators because there was no way to make them safe.

Each of the lawsuits involve similar allegations that the manufacturers knew or should have known about the risk that laparoscopic morcellation may disseminate uterine cancer, yet failed to adequately warn the medical community or women deciding to undergo a minimally invasive procedure instead of a traditional hysterectomy or myomectomy.

The litigation has emerged since April 2014, when the FDA estimated that one out of every 350 women undergoing surgery for symptomatic uterine fibroids may actually have undiagnosed and unsuspected sarcoma contained within the uterus. For these women, morcellators may rapidly spread cancerous cells throughout the body, rapidly upstaging leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma or other uterine cancers to an advanced stage that is difficult to treat and often fatal.

Two FDA advisory panels were convened by the agency, which determined that there was no safe way to use power morcellators for uterine fibroid removal. However, the panels could not agree on whether to recommend that the agency demand a power morcellator recall or simply add a black box warning.

While the FDA has allowed laparoscopic morcellators to remain on the market, with much stronger warnings about the potential cancer risks, many hospitals and doctors have announced that they will no longer perform hysterectomy or myomectomy procedures with morcellation, indicating that there is no way to justify the risk.

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