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DePuy Land

What a strange place is DEPUY LAND, the place inhabited by the people who work for “DePuy”, in its various corporate guises.

It surely is a lawyer-free zone. We can infer this from a Field Safety Notice on the website of the Irish Medicines Board. The notice is the provincial edition of a world-wide notice to DePuy customers. The customers have bought a DePuy “product” and there are quality issues with the product.

What’s the product?

It’s called the DePuy FREEMAN Cemented Femoral Hip Stem and the customers are big hospitals with orthopaedic services.

The hospitals are big because they do big operations, like cutting off the top of a patient’s thigh bone (the femor) and then sticking a metal spike (the “stem”) down the centre of the bone to create a new ball-and-socket in the patient’s hip.

Now, it turns out that this is problematic. As DePuy expresses it in the Field Safety Notice (“FSN”), (Which is dated 17th April 2012):

“…However, research has led DePuy to conclude that, when used in combination with a MoM articulation DePuy’s cemented, polished, CoCro femoral hip stems, including the FREEMAN Cemented Femoral Hip Stem could exhibit excessive corrosion of the polished surfaces which are within the cement mantle.”

The significant word in that statement is “could”. It is in fact an understatement.

The FSN is the outcome of DePuy investigations started in 2007. The investigations started, as the FSN notes, because actual real people had suffered the consequences of DePuy product failures and had to have the products taken back out of their bodies. These were big operations.

In short, “could”, in the FSN, should read “would”.

Furthermore, this problem remained as a trap for those patients fitted with the “DePuy FREEMAN Cemented Femoral Hip Stem” between 2007 and 2012, a time during which Depuy was looking into the problem.

These patients are, and were, guinea pigs for DePuy. They are left with the consequences of the product failure without having ever consented to run the risk of that failure.

Of course, in law, DePuy, and the patients’ big orthopaedic hospitals are liable, for different reasons, to compensate the patients for these product failures.

That’s the theory; but, if there are no lawyers in DEPUY LAND, who is to alert the patients to the existence of their right to make a claim?