A group of New Zealanders allegedly harmed by metal-on-metal hip implants manufactured by DePuy Orthopaedics is joining an international lawsuit against the company.
According to Farifax NZ News, about 30 New Zealanders learned they were eligible to sue DePuy under English law and are currently working with a barrister (lawyer) in the U.K. to file their claims in the British court.
Their eligibility comes as good news to all 507 New Zealanders who have been implanted with one of DePuy’s recalled ASR (articular surface replacement) hip devices, which have been implanted in about 93,000 patients worldwide. The plaintiffs are not allowed to sue under New Zealand law because large corporations there are protected by ACC, or Accident Compensation Corporation.
As Beasley Allen blogger Jennifer Walker-Journey explains:
“ACC is New Zealand’s way of providing compensation for accidents. The idea is to help anyone who has had an accident and suffered personal injury, no matter how minor or serious, or who is to blame. The compensation isn’t necessarily a monetary payment. In some cases, it may be free or reduced-cost treatments. In exchange for this guaranteed compensation, patients who experience a personal injury cannot sue.”
DePuy recalled its ASR XL Acetabular System and ASR Hip Resurfacing System in August 2010 after results of a new study confirmed what many plaintiffs allege the company knew for years: that about 12 percent of the ASR resurfacing devices and 13 percent of the XL devices failed within five years.
But DePuy’s recalled hip implants don’t only fail, they may also cause serious injury and illness to the patient, including hip dislocation, bone fracturing and pain. Metal particles released by friction between the implants’ metal parts can cause muscle and tissue decay around the implant, making revision surgeries more difficult. Elevated levels of cobalt and chromium particles may also be responsible for a number of metal poisoning symptoms, and some doctors fear they could be responsible for tumor growth and cancer.
DePuy has said it will pay for all “reasonable” costs incurred by the faulty hip devices, including testing, revision surgery costs, and related expenses involving travel and some post-surgery care. But considering the extensive illness and injury some patients blame on the faulty implants, nobody knows for sure what the future holds in terms of health and medical care associated with the hips.
According to Farifax NZ News, the company has said it is providing support for more than 4,000 patients in New Zealand and Australia.