James Elliott says the first hip operation he underwent resulted in immediate pain. He had received a DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hip implant, which had not been grafted properly. The device was loose and causing Elliott excruciating agony.
“It would feel like I had been shot in the leg,” he said.
Elliott says he endured 18 months of pain, which negatively affected his ability to father his two young children. Finally, he underwent a revision operation. Instead of providing relief, he says the healing process was brutal, and he admits that he was “mentally unprepared for the rehabilitation.”
In the years following the recovery, Elliott became a public advocate for other New Zealand patients that had also received the DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hips, numbering more than 500 from 2003 until 2010 when the device was recalled. He is one of many that is fighting against Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), which is blocking patients alleging injuries tied to the hip implant from suing the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary for faulty design.
After being in contact with so many patients that had suffered similarly, Elliott knew many that had never been told that the devices had been recalled, or that the device design was alleged to be faulty. They only learned of it after seeing publicity about other litigation, and coming forward to ask their specialist.
Some patients were found to have developed metal “sludge” when the implant was replaced. Others reported experiencing metallosis, with the metal flaking bits into their bodies, a dangerous implant malfunction that has been linked to cancer and organ damage. For many, revisions surgery was not an option.
According to Elliott, his role as advocate for these patients is something that medical professionals should be responsible for, but none came forward to do so.
“And that is a real shame and speaks to the nature of the profession,” Elliott said.