The families of two elderly victims are suing Synthes, a multinational medical device manufacturer, and four of its executives after surgeons allegedly injected the spines of Ryoichi Kikuchi and Barbara Marcelino with bone cement.
The victims were both 83 years-old and died on the operating table in 2003 and 2004 after their blood pressure plummeted during the procedure and doctors were unable to bring them back to life. The families are claiming wrongful death and elder care abuse.
Synthes is headquartered in Chester County, Pennsylvania. At the time of the surgery, the bone cement was not approved by the FDA, yet prosecutors say Synthes promoted the product and even instructed doctors on how to use it.
Although the bone cement was not officially determined to cause Kikuchi and Marcelino's death, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia mandated that Synthes pay $24 million in fines and penalties. The surgeons who performed the procedure were not named as defendants in the suit.
As part of the settlement, the U.S. Justice Department ordered that Synthes relinquish its wholly owned Norian branch, which was the original maker of the cement. Hansjorg Wyss, chairman of Synthes and its largest shareholder, was named in the suit.
The four Synthes executives, Michael Huggins, Thomas Higgins, Richard Bohner, and John Walsh, each plead guilty to one misdemeanor count and were incarcerated. Legrome D. Davis, the U.S. District Court Judge presiding over the case, called the actions of the company "shameful," according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
A date for the wrongful death trial has not been set yet, but the prosecuting attorney did tell the Inquirer, "The victims' families are furious and deeply hurt over their recent discovery of the true cause of their loved ones' deaths. I have never seen such despicable conduct by a corporation so desperate to make profits and maintain a competitive edge at the expense of human lives."
If you or someone you know has lost their lives as a result of medical malpractice, you may benefit from a consultation with a personal injury lawyer. He or she can help you assess your claim and help try your case in a court of law, if necessary.