GAO finds FDA-approved surgical device's link to cancer

Feb 9, 2017

The use of an electric surgical device to perform a minimally invasive hysterectomy is what Frank Interlichia of Brighton, NY - and others in similar cases across the country - claim caused the death of their loved ones.

Interlichia’s wife, Linda, passed away in October 2014 following a surgery involving a power morcellator. On Wednesday, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter announced the release of a long-awaited Government Accountability Office (GAO) report into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of power morcellators and “the failure of the reporting system to catch this unsafe device.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind it spread her cancer,” Interlichia said when asked about his wife’s battle with the disease. 

Surgeons use power morcellators to cut up large chunks of tissue into smaller pieces. But, if the blades hit an undetectable fibroid cancer, it will spread the cancer throughout the body, and take Stage 1 cancers immediately to Stage 4.

“They should ban the device, and they should stop using the device until they know that they’re not causing harm to their patients,” Interlichia said. “The most egregious sin here is that they’re waiting for better data to come in and women are dying in the meantime.”

Over the years, a number of fatal cases involving the use of power morcellators have come to light nationally. And, according to Slaughter, each family filed a safety report with the FDA. She said it was not until 2014 that the FDA took action after receiving a 2013 report from a patient in Philadelphia.

Interlichia said, though it won’t bring his wife back, he is comforted by knowing that there has been some progress. He also said more patients waiting in line for this type of surgery can now be made aware of this potential danger beforehand.

“I hope these findings keep this issue in the public eye so that leaders in Congress, at the FDA, in physicians’ professional societies and in hospitals and doctors’ offices will follow through on making reforms that can help save lives.”