Product News and Recalls

Morcellator Critics Subjected to Enhanced Security Measures Prior to Surgery

morcellator critics subjected to extra security at hospitalThis blog has been covering the story of Dr. Amy Reed and her husband, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, since we started discussing power morcellators and the risks the devices pose to the public.

Drs. Reed and Noorchashm are both esteemed physicians. Dr. Reed is an anesthesiologist and Dr. Noorchashm is a cardiothoracic surgeon. They are also highly vocal critics of power morcellators, their manufacturers, and the hospitals that chose to allow their use for gynecological procedures.

In 2013, Dr. Reed underwent a hysterectomy. The procedure was conducted using a minimally invasive power morcelletor – a device designed to go in through small incisions and then cut and remove parts of the surgical area without the need for a larger surgical wound.

Evidence has since surfaced that power morcellators pose a great risk, particularly to women undergoing gynecological surgical procedures. The risk is that the device could potentially spread as-yet undiagnosed cancer cells throughout the abdomen of the patient. This spreads the cancer much more aggressively than it otherwise would have and can have grave consequences on a patient’s prognosis.

This information may not have come as a surprise to morcellator manufacturers. An FBI investigation is underway that seeks to determine how much companies like Johnson & Johnson and their Ethicon unit knew about the risks of morcellator-spread uterine cancer and chose to ignore. Such evidence has even drawn the attention of the United States Congress.

None of this new attention changes the struggle that those that have been affected by these devices must now endure. Reed, a mother of 6, continues to undergo treatment for her cancer at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston; the same hospital that used a morcellator that may have dramatically upstaged her cancer.

Now, however, she and her husband must add screenings, searches, and in-hospital surveillance to their list of concerns from the moment they walk through the door.

The hospital says the measures were taken out of an abundance of caution, citing emails written by Dr. Noorchashm to various members of Brigham’s leadership. While the hospital itself has refused to provide examples Dr. Noorchashm’s emails, various quotes have surfaced from other sources.

Reed and Noorchashm, however, allege that the measures were added in retaliation for their public criticism of the role that Brigham may have played in spreading Dr. Reed’s cancer. A Superior Court judge found merit to this argument and ordered all enhanced security measures lifted for the couple.

It is worth noting that BWH recently experienced a shooting brought about by the distraught family member of one of its patients. In January of 2015, Dr. Michael Davidson was shot and killed at BWH by a deceased patient’s son. The gunman believed that a post-operative drug prescribed to his mother by Dr. Davidson was responsible for her death.

Whether BWH is still reeling from the murder of Dr. Davidson or specifically sought out Drs. Reed and Noorchashm for retaliation is up to the courts to decide. However, the timing of its treatment of the two esteemed physicians is certainly suspect. And not all staff at BWH agrees with the use of the enhanced security measures.

Dr. Suzanne George, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and clinical director of the Center for Sarcoma and Bone Oncology at Dana-Farber, wrote to Dr. Noorchashm when she was informed of the hospital’s decision. She writes:

“In the many times I have cared for Amy, with you at her side, I have never felt threatened or unsafe or have required any unusual security procedures. I cannot speak for BWH policies, but only from my personal experience and interactions with Amy as a patient and you as her family.”

If BHW did indeed single out Drs. Reed and Noorchashm for retaliation, then such an act is completely deplorable. The very nature of academia is one that encourages information sharing and the responsible use of that information – even information that may challenge our own views and decisions.