Power Morcellators Return to the Media Spotlight

Power Morcellators Return to the Media Spotlight

After a brief spell away from media coverage labeling them dangerous medical devices, power morcellators are set for another round of unwanted press attention.

The passing of Pittsburgh-based activist Bonnie Davis, who campaigned vigorously against the widespread use of the device, has prompted peers to remember her impact and continue her work. Ms. Davis was an outspoken critic of power morcellators following its use in her cancer treatment back in 2012.

At the time, the device was being pushed by manufacturers as a breakthrough technology for the removal of the uterus in hysterectomies, as well as other gynecological procedures. Unfortunately, subsequent research proved power morcellators to be a danger to patients with – or suspected of having – cancerous tissue in that area. This prompted the FDA to advise against its use when patients fit this category, as well as the same warning for women who are peri- or postmenopausal.

While the population of women in those categories is narrow, the dangers to them are significant. For cancer patients in particular, the way the device operates carries a major risk of spreading cancerous tissue and reducing the patient’s life expectancy.

Ms. Davis learned firsthand of these risks, because the research came two years too late to warn her.

She then courageously spent some of her valuable remaining time fighting to convince insurers not to cover use of the device in their policies. Working for an insurer undeniably helped the cause, as her employer Highmark became one of the first to stop paying physicians who opted for procedures that require a power morcellator.

Ms. Davis will be remembered by those who knew her as a passionate-yet-positive voice in the fight for women’s health. “She provided incredible support and judgment,” sums up Dr. Don Fischer, the CMO at Highmark during Davis’ time there.

While the use of power morcellators dipped significantly following the FDA warnings prompted by Ms. Davis’ campaigning, a complete ban has not been forthcoming. Her legacy will live on in the rising awareness about the dangers of the device and the activists attempting to bring her work to its logical conclusion.

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