A Massachusetts medical malpractice case brought by Dr. Hooman Noorchashm and his children was revised to include a claim of wrongful death after the victim, Dr. Amy Reed, wife and mother, died as a result of a gynecological surgery involving a morcellator. In 2013, the victim visited Brigham and Women’s Hospital located in Boston for a hysterectomy procedure. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is part of a large healthcare system based in New England that also functions as a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School.
A morcellator is a type of surgical instrument which is used during laproscopic surgical procedures to divide and remove large masses of tissue. As part of the surgical procedure performed on Dr. Reed, a morcellator was used for the purpose of shredding fibroid tumors that were determined to be cancerous. However, these fibroids contained a rare cancer that can be found in the uterus. When the device was used in an attempt to shred the issue, the cancer cells rapidly spread throughout her body. Reed battled the cancer for over three years before ultimately succumbing to the disease.
The original malpractice suit was filed in 2015 and listed several physicians, the hospital and the maker of the morcellator as named defendants. A settlement offer was made; however, the plaintiffs added a stipulation that the morcellator be banned from usage, which was rejected. The plaintiffs issued a public statement reiterating their negligence claim against the hospital, two physicians, and the manufacturers, Karl Storz Endoscopy America Inc. and Karl Storz GMBH & Co. The statement accused the parties of violating the following:
- Federally-based law
- Massachusetts state statute
- Medical ethics
- Standards of surgical practice
Prior to her death, Amy Reed was an anesthesiologist who practiced in Boston and Philadelphia. She was active in promoting concerns of women’s health and was among those seeking to have morcellators banned from use in gynecological surgery practice. According to Noorchashm, Johnson & Johnson’s brand of morcellators had been discontinued in 2014 under pressure from the FDA. The safety concerns with these products, particularly their potential to spread cancerous tissue, were increasingly becoming cause for concern. Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon business division issued a recall of three variations of the devices made to mince and extract harmful tissue. The FDA estimated that the chance for the morcellators to cause the spread of cancer was approximately 1 in every 350 cases. Shortly after, the FDA issued a recommendation that physicians discontinue performing the procedure in general, due to the risk of spreading cancers during fibroid removal.