As most of you know, the defectively-designed mesh products and their complications, have taken the lives of at least two of our community members. Still many iterations of the mesh, including Johnson and Johnson’s TVT and TVT-O, remain on the market and are being implanted in women every day.
I recently came across this Woodlands, Texas urologist and his impressive C.V. In it, Harvard undergrad, and Baylor Medical School graduate, Dr. Steven Sukin, of Texas Urology Specialists touts his training as a “Proctor for Intuitive Surgical for Robotic Surgery.” A link from his website, titled, “Urinary Incontinence,” leads to this link citing TVT as an option for treatment. I learned of one woman last week who had “done her homework” and chose to have mesh implanted, by Dr. Sukin, for the treatment of SUI. My heart sank, and I have added her to a long list of folks I pray for regularly. Maybe she will be one of the lucky ones. I hope so.
As most of you know, Linda Batiste passed away on August 8, and her memorial service was a week later on August 15. The jury awarded Ms. Batiste $1.2M for compensatory damages on April 3, 2014. The jury expressly stated that they believed Johnson & Johnson’s TVT-O to be defectively designed. The case is on appeal, and the family has not seen a cent of the jury award.
Our community also lost, Mrs. Joan Budke, whose case was settled against Ethicon’s Prolift, at the last minute, as her trial went into closing arguments and approached deliberation by the jury. Johnson and Johnson decided to halt proceedings, and offer a settlement of an undisclosed amount, on January 15, 2015, which Mrs. Budke’s surviving family members accepted.
These women have one thing in common for sure.
They won their battles against Johnson and Johnson, but they lost their lives.
They received justice. But justice came too little and too late, for them and for their families who are left with a giant void where their matriarchs used to endwell.
The loss of these two souls reminds us that the battle is not primarily a legal one.
The battle is for LIFE and FREEDOM from the threat of violence, disguised as medical treatment.
I am learning about the process of justice and the legal restraints sometimes placed upon the attorneys who defend us – the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Last Thursday evening, I attended a fundraiser, held for Judge Ken Molberg of the 95th district court in Texas. He was the judge who presided over Ms. Batiste’s trial against Johnson and Johnson’s and Ethicon’s TVT-O.
As a non-profit, whose efforts are not primarily political in nature, TMWF could not donate to Molberg’s campaign efforts, although attending his fundraiser (or the fundraisers of any other elected official) is permissible. The event was held at a private home, a long-time friend of Judge Molberg’s, and a former lawyer herself.
During Ms. Batiste’s trial, I gained a great amount of respect for Ken Molberg, a Democratic judge who is officially on the campaign trail, seeking reelection. Molberg has presided over the 95th district court in Texas for seven years. The fundraiser’s hostess gave a heart-warming and humor-filled speech about the character of Judge Molberg. I found it to be absolutely consistent with his character in the courtroom.
As citizens, non-elected officials, we don’t always have a good understanding of what our public servants endure to defend our civil and human rights. As a judge, Molberg has been the target of those who disagree with his rulings, and our hostesses’ speech was a good reminder that there is great cost that comes to one personally, and one’s family, for doing the work of standing up for others.
Our hostess described one night, many years ago, when a group of unknown people broke into the judge’s home in the middle of the night. For just such occasions, the judge owns a rifle for self defense. However, for the safety of his four children who very young at the time, he kept the rifle unloaded, and after he commanded his wife and children to hide upstairs, in the master bedroom’s bathroom, he struggled to find the gun’s bullets. According to our hostess, Judge Molberg went outside on the balcony with an unloaded gun, and began to defend himself and his family, pointing the gun to and fro and yelling at the vandals and trespassers to leave or regret it. They left. They ran from his courage, not his bullets.
Our hostess concluded, saying,
“That’s the kind of man Ken is. He will defend you at all costs, even with no bullets.”
When it was time for the judge, himself, to remark; he began with a similar light-heartedness, saying he had all but forgotten the incident. He laughed, seemingly at himself, that he would ever have done such a thing. But his remarks quickly turned to the serious nature of his position and that he does not take his authority lightly. He thanked several friends and members of the crowd, mostly lawyers and other current and past judges. He went on to say,
“Everyone deserves the constitutional right to a trial by jury.”
He continued in a somewhat somber, more reverant manner, sometimes staring at the floor. He said that mass torts are not the kind of justice our founders imagined, and with great vigor and sincerity, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to represent the justice of the people in our community when afforded the opportunity to preside over trial. He closed by humbly asking for the vote of each of us, noting he would continue to serve the rights of the people and in the public’s interest.
As a non-profit founder, I found myself as somewhat of a fish-out-of-water, but kind paralegals and even some plaintiff’s attorneys took me under their wings. One even donated two dollars for me to pay the valet to retrieve my car (Every dollar counts!).
The most encouraging exchange came when one of the plaintiff’s attorneys let me know that I, and the TMWF community, are welcome on their side of the courtroom – yes – even donning our blue lips.
Ms. Cavness is bringing a cause of action against her doctor, OB/Gyn, Teresa Kowalczyk MD, of Hunt Memorial Hospital in Texas; as well as Hunt Regional Medical Center and Baylor Healthcare System; Johnson and Johnson and Ethicon in this product liability action.
Jury selection begins September 21, and opening remarks are expected to begin September 23, 2015. I would like to personally call for any mesh-injured woman who can travel, to try to attend a few days of her trial. There is an odd healing that happens when you support another human being in this way. I believe it will be very important for our community to find a way to cover the trial, as it’s one of the first to involve suing the doctor and her supporting healthcare affiliates. I will not be able to report on the trial, as I will be at the 2015 Stanford Medicine X Conference. According to Jane Akre’s MND:
“The suit notes polypropylene material sparks an immune reaction; pathogens attach when the mesh is implanted vaginally (transvaginal); the mesh shrinks; the mesh causes friction with the underlying tissue causing the tissue to degrade; the mesh injures major nerve routes in the pelvic region and degrades over time taking with it the internal tissues; the welding of the mesh during production creates a toxic substance that contributes to the degradation of the mesh and host tissue; and the design of trocars potentially penetrates nerve-rich environments.”
The immune-system reaction has not been of great focus in most of these trials, though most every sufferer of adverse events, reports that it is a major factor in continued injury and chronic pain.
I pray that Ms. Cavness will receive justice in Judge Molberg’s courtroom, as have others, like Ms. Batiste, who’ve gone before her. I pray that the justice system, and the people of this country, can force accountability where the manufactures will not.
For a refresher course on how to prepare to attend a trial, see my blog post here. I hope some of you will be able to attend, and if you want to be welcomed, blue lips and all, here is the post I wrote about how to don your blues.
Find the courtroom location and contact information here. I hope some of you can attend.