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View imageAs the College of Cardinals begins to gather for the upcoming Papal Conclave, the sexual abuse scandals that plague the Catholic Church continue to overshadow the event.
At least a dozen of the Cardinals now in Rome to prepare for the conclave have faced accusations of failing to remove priests who were accused of sexually abusing minors. In several cases, there is mounting evidence that — in addition to trying to cover-up cases of sexual abuse — several Cardinals may have manipulated church funds to hide assets from victims seeking settlements.
Advocates for abuse victims have also begun to gather in Rome to protest what they see as the blatant hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. While Pope Benedict had repeatedly apologized to the victims of sexual abuse, he never instituted any serious reform. During his Papacy not a single prelate was removed, even after court cases and documents revealed Cardinals who had put children at risk by failing to report pedophiles or remove them from the priesthood. Now those same prelates meet to pick Benedict’s successor and their new defender.
Much of the anger has been directed at Cardinal Roger Mahoney, retired from the diocese of Los Angeles. When sexual abuse charges were brought against priests in Los Angeles it was revealed in thousands of pages of church documents that Cardinal Mahoney attempted to cover-up and shield priests charged with abuse. His failure was so great that it has even prompted a rare rebuke from the church. Prominent Italian Cardinal Velasio De Paolis said that Mahoney’s presence at the conclave would be “troubling” and privately asked him not to come.
But to the dismay of his critics, Mahoney will attend the conclave. Hours after the Pope’s resignation he tweeted, “Am planning to be in Rome and vote for the next Pope.”
Days before he left for Rome, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was also questioned behind closed doors in a legal deposition concerning the sexual abuse of children by priests in Milwaukee, where he was Cardinal for seven years. At present, 575 people have filed abuse claims against priests in the Milwaukee diocese. While Dolan’s role in the cover-up continues to be examined, he is widely seen as the leading American candidate for Pope.
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz of Chile, Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada — all of whom have been implicated in abuse cover-ups and been widely criticized in their home countries — will attend the conclave and are expected to vote for the new Pope.
The church continues to be rocked by abuse scandals worldwide, yet the Vatican remains silent as the College of Cardinals convene. Critics continue to hope that the next Pope will have the courage to address the sexual abuse crisis in the church. But how much hope for change can there be when many of those selecting the next Pope have been complicit in the very crisis all along? Will they want the next Defender of the Faith to protect the Cardinals or the victims of sexual abuse?
New Jersey Jury Awards 3.35 million in Transvaginal Mesh trial against Ethicon.
The Atlantic City jury found Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Company liable for selling a defective Prolift vaginal mesh product that injured plaintiff Linda Gross causing multiple painful surgeries. The trial of this lawsuit had been going on for several weeks. Judge Higbee who was the trial judge is now deciding whether the evidence justifies having the jury assess punitive damages to punish Ethicon for putting its own profits above the safety of patients.
Linda Gross’s attorneys had argued that the Ethicon Prolift Mesh was defective because of a bad design that allowed for shrinkage of the mesh and that the design of the mesh was not appropriate to implant into the human body.
There are thousands of transvaginal mesh (TVM) lawsuits pending in the United States. Most of the cases in federal court have been assigned to the multidistrict litigation proceedings in Charleston, West Virginia. These cases involve Boston Scientific, AMS, Bard, and Coloplast in addition to Ethicon. A number of those cases are currently being set for jury trials.
In 1943, Robert Wood Johnson, the chairman and founding family member of Johnson & Johnson put forth the credo that he intended to forever guide the company’s decision making – Put the needs and well-being of the people we serve first.
But evidence continues to mount that Johnson & Johnson has abandoned the lofty ideals put forth in the corporate credo. As initial lawsuits involving the company’s troubled hip implant device, the Articular Surface Replacement (A.S.R.), continue in Los Angeles, it’s clear that profits — not patients — are now the driving force at Johnson & Johnson..
Evidence introduced against the company has included a memo from a doctor to executives at Johnson & Johnson informing them that the A.S.R. was so poorly designed that the company should slow its marketing efforts until it understood why patients were getting hurt. The memo was written almost two years before the company recalled the device in 2010. In those two years before the recall, knowing the device was poorly designed; evidence suggests the company actually increased their marketing efforts.
The plaintiff’s lawyers have also painted a picture of executives who systematically placed profits above the welfare of their patients. When a plan was developed to fix the flawed implant, it was scuttled by Johnson & Johnson because it was too expensive. The company’s DePuy orthopedic division continued to aggressively market the A.S.R. worldwide in spite of knowing of widespread failures with the joint.
In 2009 Andrew Ekdahl, then a senior marketing executive at DePuy elected not to reveal to any other countries where the A.S.R. was marketed that the United States had stopped sales of the replacement joint. Later that year when questioned by the New York Times regarding the concerns raised by the F.D.A., Ekdahl said that any reports of safety issues with the A.S.R. were, “simply untrue.”
$688 Million Settlement of Lawsuits Against Merck
Civil lawsuit settlements against drug maker Merck for lying about benefits of drug Vytorin were announced yesterday. The lawsuits alleged that Merck had known for over two years that Vytorin was no better than other statins on the market but falsely advertised Vytorin as having better results.
These lawsuits were brought by shareholders of the company that bought stock in the company based upon the expected sales of Vytorin.
This is not the first time that drug maker Merck has been sued for fraud.
Merck agreed to a multibillion dollar settlement for lying about the safety of its popular pain medication Vioxx a few years ago. In the Vioxx lawsuits it was shown that Merck manipulated medical studies to hide incidences of heart attacks. Merck knew that its sales would suffer if it was known that Vioxx could increase the incidence of heart attacks in some patients.
Unfortunately, it has become commonplace for pharmaceutical and medical device companies to misrepresent science when it suits their financial interests. Another example of this is playing out in a Los Angeles courtroom this week in the Kransky v. DePuy ASR hip implant trial. In that case evidence has been presented that DePuy Orthopedics knew for years that the ASR XL metal hip implant was failing at an extremely high rate and left it on the market to be implanted in thousands more unsuspecting patients. Most of these patients will likely need expensive and painful revision surgery.
There are currently over ten thousand ASR hip implant lawsuits pending in the United States.
Johnson & Johnson Adept Hip Replacement Recalled
Spokeswomen for J&J’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit said Thursday that the company recalled the ”Adept” brand all-metal total hip replacement system starting last month because a higher-than-expected percentage of them had to be replaced. Such replacements, called revision surgeries, usually are needed when an artificial joint starts causing pain, difficulty walking or other problems.
This recall includes all 7,500 Adept implants shipped worldwide between 2004 and September 2011. That is when it sold the product back to the company that had developed Adept and had sold the rights to it to the DePuy business in 2009.
According to J&J, the implants were sold in Germany and 20 other countries, but not in the United States.
J&J said it notified surgeons and hospitals about the recall on Jan. 14 after reviewing data from national registries on joint replacements in two countries. A registry in the United Kingdom found that 12.1 percent of patients needed their implants replaced within seven years, while a registry in Australia found 7.1 percent of patients needed replacements within three years.
The DePuy spokeswomen did not know how many of the recalled implants were implanted in patients. Any who have the implants and are having problems with them should contact their doctor.
The recall was reported Thursday by the German newspaper Handelsblatt.
J&J noted the recall does not involve a product called Adept Hip Resurfacing Femoral Components.
J&J, the world’s biggest provider of health care products, has issued more than 30 product recalls since 2009. Shares rose 15 cents to $75.81.
ASR Hip Implant Trial Shows Inadequate Testing and Early Knowledge of Design Flaw
Damaging testimony continues to pile up against Johnson & Johnson in the first A.S.R. related lawsuit to go to trial. More recently released documents seem to indicate that the company’s orthopedic unit had used inadequate or incorrect standards in their risk assessment of the metal-on-metal A.S.R. hip replacement joint that was used in over 90,000 patients.
In Los Angeles Superior Court, the lawsuit against the DePuy Orthopedics division of Johnson & Johnson represents the first of more than 10,000 similar lawsuits that have been filed in the United States. Internal documents from DePuy show that the company had concerns about the A.S.R. joint long before it was recalled in 2010. In addition, while the company knew of abnormally high failure rates with the device, it continued to market it aggressively in the United States.