The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is meeting this week to determine whether it would be beneficial to consolidate lawsuits involving similar allegations against the manufactures of power morcellators, medical devices used to perform some gynecological procedures including hysterectomies and uterine fibroid removal. The lawsuits allege that the devices can spread undiagnosed uterine cancer, worsening a woman’s odds of survival.
The consolidation of lawsuits under one single judge, known as a multidistrict litigation, or MDL, was requested by plaintiffs who have already filed lawsuits against power morcellator manufacturers.
MDLs are generally sought to streamline early trial proceedings when several lawsuits with similar allegations have been waged against a defendant or defendants. Each lawsuit remains an individual lawsuit in the event a settlement is not reached, in which case the lawsuit would be remanded back to its original court.
Plaintiffs have requested the power morcellator MDL be located in the U.S. District Court in Kansas.
Power morcellators are surgical tools that are fitted with a tube-like blade that shreds uterine growths or entire uteruses within the uterine cavity and removes the pieces of tissue through a small incision in the abdomen. The procedures have been used for two decades, but in recent years advocates have argued that the devices can toss bits of cancerous tissue throughout the abdominal cavity, making the disease more difficult to treat.
Some uterine cancers, including uterine sarcoma, are difficult to diagnose before tissue is removed. About 1 in 350 women have uterine cancer and are at risk of cancer spread if they undergo power morcellation procedures.
Last fall, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that power morcellators not be used in most women due to the risk of cancer spreading and worsening.
Lawsuits continue to be filed against the manufacturers of power morcellators by women injured by the devices and their family members.