A West Chester, Pennsylvania, medical device maker is the defendant in a federal wrongful death claim. The plaintiff is the daughter of a woman who died during a 2003 spinal surgery after a surgeon injected her with experimental bone cement.
Negligence, fraud and wrongful death allegations are lodged against Johnson & Johnson's Synthes subsidiary and its former offshoot Norian Corp. The suit was filed in Philadelphia in late July.
The complaint alleges that a surgeon and Synthes hid the fact that the victim's surgery was a research experiment. Synthes Norian drug is approved for other uses, but not for use as a surgical bone cement. The victim's heart stopped on the operating table shortly after she was injected with the drug mixture.
Four officials from Johnson & Johnson's Synthes subsidiary pleaded guilty to criminal charges connected to 200 experimental spinal surgeries using the unapproved cement. Three deaths resulted from surgeries using the unapproved cement, including the victim named in the civil suit.
The drug executives were jailed last year, each with prison sentences up to eight months. The company paid more than $23 million. Synthes Norian unit was sold.
Patients who undergo surgery expect physicians to be straightforward about the risks of the operation they receive. Doctors and drug companies who conspire to use unsuspecting patients as medical experiments for new drugs or procedures risk lives.
Quality health care is more than an expectation. It's a right. A surgeon who fails to perform an approved surgery is guilty of medical malpractice. There is a risk with every surgery, but doctors who don't fully explain those risks deprive patients of the approval of their own health care.