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Shezad Malik MD JD
Shezad Malik MD JD
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Illinois Wrongful Death Hysterectomy Uterine Cancer Lawsuit

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Hot on the heels of the recent Wall Street Journal’s report that Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit is quietly settling morcellator cancer lawsuits, several undiagnosed uterine cancer injury claims are being filed. These new product liability claims are being filed on behalf of women diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma following a laparoscopic hysterectomy or uterine fibroid removal.

Uterine_Cancer_Hysterectomy_AttorneyCourt documents note that there are about 100 cancer spread cases after hysterectomy cases have either been filed or readied for filing against the J&J’s Ethicon unit, a subsidiary. The litigation is centered around a medical device known as the laparoscopic power morcellator.

According to sources J&J has settled nearly 70 cancer injury cases over the past few months, and several are in settlement discussions. J&J will have to fork out  hundreds of millions dollars in settlements by the time it is all said and done.

Chicago, Illinois Wrongful Death Morcellator Claim

Eddie Lee Jackson from Chicago filed a wrongful death morcellator uterine cancer claim in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Jackson alleges that his wife, Bernadette McLaughlin-Jackson, died from complications of malignant leiomyosarcoma cancer, which was spread throughout her abdomen by an Ethicon morcellator.

McLaughlin-Jackson underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy for uterine fibroid removal in April 2008. She died in May 2011, shortly after she was diagnosed with an aggressive advanced stage leiomyosarcoma. According to Jackson, Bernadette’s undiagnosed cancer was localized to the uterus, but it was upstaged to metastatic levels by the morcellator use.

What are Power Morcellator Devices?

Power morcellators grind up fibroids which are benign growths in the uterus, so doctors can remove the chopped up or morcellated tissue through small incisions made during a laparoscopic hysterectomy.

Gynecological surgeons routinely used the devices before April 2014, but then when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that women undergoing fibroid operations have a 1 in 350 chance of a uterine sarcoma that can’t be reliably detected before the procedure.

The FDA said that power morcellators can spread undiagnosed uterine cancer tissue within the abdomen and pelvis, significantly worsening a woman’s chances of long-term survival. Women who developed uterine cancer after hysterectomy, in many cases are facing a death sentence with an appalling 5 year survival, despite aggressive chemotherapy regimens which is usually ineffective.

Many women have been diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma or other aggressive forms of uterine cancer that was spread by Ethicon morcellators. J&J’s Ethicon unit had the largest morcellator share of the market, with over 70% of units used.

J&J Ethicon Morcellator Wrongful Death Claims

The plaintiffs have filed wrongful-death and product-liability claims against J&J’s Ethicon division alleging that the medical device giant company knew or should have known that the surgical tools sprayed undiagnosed cancer cells but didn’t take adequate action, and that the products were essentially a defective design because of the difficulty of differentiating a fibroid from a uterine sarcoma.

FDA Reluctantly Investigates

The FDA began looking into possible risks of laparoscopic hysterectomy surgery with the device after a 40-year-old anesthesiologist Amy Reed, went public in a Wall Street Journal article detailing her worsened cancer after a hysterectomy using the device.

Dr Reed has sued another morcellator maker, Karl Storz GmbH, in a case pending in a Massachusetts state court, as well as the Boston hospital and doctors involved in her care. Dr Reed, a mother of six who now lives in Philadelphia, has had multiple recurrences and continues to fight advanced metastatic cancer.

According to several medical experts, many women never had the chance to discover why they developed the deadly cancer and those they left behind have no idea what happened to them. There must be be hundreds of grieving families who to this date have not made the connection to the death of their loved one from post hysterectomy cancer and the deadly morcellator device.