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Motion Filed to Centralize Power Morcellator Cancer Lawsuits

Justice is servedLawyers for plaintiffs who have filed power morcellator lawsuits alleging the devices spread cancer have submitted a motion to centralize the complaints before one judge as part of a single litigation process. Currently, at least 22 such cases have been filed concerning women who have diagnosed with various types of cancers allegedly spread by the morcellator device, which is used in laparoscopic surgeries to remove uterine fibroids or the uterus as a whole.

The motion was submitted to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on June 18 with the request that the cases all be heard by U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil of the District of Kansas as part of a multidistrict litigation (or MDL). MDLs are created when several cases filed in multiple districts are deemed similar enough that conducting them under the same judge with a shared discovery process would result in a more efficient expedition of the cases involving less redundancy. The pending 22 cases have been filed in 16 different courts across the country.

Power morcellator cancer lawsuits filed

The power morcellator claims were filed over a device that was designed to facilitate minimally invasive surgery to remove uterine fibroids (myomectomy) or during a hysterectomy. The device chops up tissue to be removed into tiny pieces and removes it through a smaller incision than would otherwise be needed, allowing for less bleeding, faster healing times, and other benefits.

However, lawsuits contend that power morcellators also spread cancer cells from undiagnosed cancers throughout the uterus or abdomen of the patients undergoing surgery and that such patients were not adequately warned of the risks involved. The spread of such cancer cells can mean death, shortened lifespan, or diminished quality of life for patients affected.

The FDA issued a warning about cancer spread risks associated with devices in April of 2014. While some voices have called for an outright ban on morcellators, the agency recommended guidelines for their continued use, such as screening out patients for whom morcellation would represent excessive risks, such as those over 50 or who have risk factors for uterine cancers. The FDA also stipulated that a small bag be used to catch any stray bits of tissue during the morcellation process and that women be warned clearly about such risks prior to a procedure so that they can give their informed consent.

Manufacturer of power morcellators pulls device from market

Power morcellators were manufactured by many different companies (including Blue Endo, Cook Urological, Inc., Karl Storz, Nouvag, Olympus, and Richard Wolf.) The largest manufacturer is Ethicon (a division of Johnson & Johnson); however, morcellator production represents a small fraction of Ethicon’s overall medical device manufacturing.

As plaintiffs began to file lawsuits over power morcellator-related uterine cancer, Ethicon removed its devices from the market. Ethicon representatives stress, however, that their actions should not be seen as a full-scale recall of the devices and that it is the technique, rather than the devices themselves, which should be understood as flawed.  Ethicon will represent the defendant in many of the pending and future morcellator lawsuits.

  1. Reuters, MDL sought for Johnson & Johnson power morcellator lawsuits

  2. New York Times, Uterine Surgical Technique Is Linked to Abnormal Growths and Cancer Spread